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A Different Kind of Christmas Carol

by Zustara Orur

A story (C) 2002/2003 by ZUSTARA ORUR. Contact address: 1.2 May not be redistributed, commercial use prohibited!

Please see chapter 1 for standard disclaimer blurb and the dedication and acknowledgements section.


I've already mentioned Jeff's great sense of fair play. I've never seen such a honest person before, I was with him the day he kicked a stone lying in the street and it bounced up and smashed the left headlight of a parked car. I watched him write a very apologetic note to the car's owner with a full confession and his name, address and everything (using my back to hold the note against no less!), and then stick it under one of the car's windshield wipers. He even jotted down the car's registration on his palmtop thingy, in case the note would blow away or something. I was also there on that summer day when he'd persuaded some of his team mates to try some genuine rugby without all those pads they usually wear, and when Cliff had been clumsy and ran right into Jeff's elbow and was lying on the ground bleeding and crying because he thought he'd knocked a tooth loose. I watched as Jeff was there for Cliff to comfort and say he was terribly sorry even though it wasn't his fault at all. It was all about being a good sport. Competitive to one hundred percent when it mattered, but always playing by the rules, never striving to win just for the sake of winning like a cheater would, but winning by actually being the best. Frequently, Jeff wasn't, but that was beside the point. To him the most important thing was trying his best, giving all he got, and if that was not enough, fair enough. At least he'd made a honest attempt! He'd pick himself up like after that fight with Greg, brush himself off and try again! I guess that's another reason why I loved him so much. His unquenchable spirit, his rock-hard integrity and his unblemished honor.

The academic side of Jeff wasn't quite as brightly shining however. He did not try to hide that he was dyslexic, and struggling because of it. But he never let that beat him down either, I don't know how he did it. He'd told us he had an assistant at home, and with her help he usually managed to get at least fairly good grades. It was all because of an almost supreme effort on his part I knew. Sometimes he'd come to school with dark rings under his eyes, and when asked he'd tell (with a smile) that he'd fallen asleep over his books at four in the morning.

I felt so sorry for him! I once told him that, and I'm pretty sure I said something about him being very brave or something silly like that too, which made him smile again. I blushed of course, and being as pale as I am (almost like an albino actually), it showed incredibly well.

That was when he asked me. Well, asked all of us, really. But mostly me, I'd like to think...

"Would you like to come to my Christmas party?", he said. "It's my birthday party too, It would be so nice if you could make it!"

There was no way I was ever going to say no. That hidden part of me that loved him was speaking the words even before my real me had quite comprehended what he'd just said. I spoke up before any of the others present had a chance...! "Why, of course I'll be there!", that part of me said. "I'd LOVE to come!"

Right then I didn't care about my own family's Christmas celebrations at all, that was as irrelevant to me as who - if any - that despicable Hannah had a crush on...

More eager voices of agreement were heard from across the table and Jeff was all happiness and smiles. Again I was thinking he was smiling mostly at me, but that was probably just my imagination as usual. Still, that did not stop me from being so incredibly in love with him, and getting a hard-on again just by looking at his cute, smiling face.

If I'd had a clue, maybe I'd understood why people were so eager to come to Jeff's party. I was so absorbed by his open, easy-going nature I had never bothered to try to find out more about Jeff's family, where he lived, all that. All that mattered to me was the SUBSTANCE of Jeff, while others, even my closest friends, only looked at the surface and apparently saw little more than a handsome rich-boy who was having a party. A party for the first time, and that was of course not something to be missed! If there's one thing rich-boys know, it is how to party they thought. None said so, but it was obvious that's what they were thinking.

Jeff was inviting everyone he knew and many he didn't, and not surprisingly, most everyone said they'd try to be there. Within a few days, the guest list of confirmed invitees must have rolled over into triple digit numbers and I couldn't understand how on EARTH he'd manage to fit them all into his house! Would he rent the school's basketball arena and have tables put up there or something?

It was a snowy day a week before Christmas when the formal invitation card arrived in our mailbox. It looked like nothing I'd ever seen before, printed on thick creamy-white paper with swirly gilt letters saying something like 'thou art hereby cordially invited', and the words 'sixteenth birthday and Christmas celebrations' were also thrown in there, with promises of dinner and other stuff (it listed the menu), but what absorbed my eyes was that it was signed by the birthday-boy-to-be himself! 'Jeffrey Sinclair VI', it said in a precise, yet elegant signature with a tiny little heart over each of the i:s, and I had to ask my dad what VI meant, if it was some kind of British title or something. Dad laughed, and after having had a bit of fun on the expense of his elder son told me it was Roman numerals.

"It means he's the sixth to bear the name. These guys can probably trace their lineage back to the early middle ages or something", he'd said and I was stunned.

I didn't say anything about it in school however, how his name had impressed me. There was no need to, because as I first laid eyes on him he was back to being plain Jeff again, the boy I secretly loved. I started to talk a bit more to him, but only about "safe" topics, like how training went for him and the rest of the team and such. It felt good, talking to him, and I felt like he too enjoyed our simple conversation. It wasn't as if I suddenly dared to approach him right out of the blue, no of course not. Jeff simply seemed to be there more for some reason, and I found the courage to talk to him.

Time did not fly until Christmas eve. It was snowing every day, but not enough for the schools to close, which was what many of those I knew wanted. I actually preferred for ours to stay open, that was the only way I could meet Jeff socially, and that last week we actually managed to bump into each other every day! I was ecstatic, but tried not to let it show. Silly me, I still did not know I loved him something awful! All that mattered to me was I automatically became really happy whenever I saw him. It brightened up my entire day, everything became easy and fun, every little annoyance seemed irrelevant...

It was almost pain after the last day of school. Saturday. Sunday. Monday, all without Jeff. Weekends didn't use to bother me, not up until then. It was incredibly difficult to handle being away from him for three days when I didn't even really know it was him I was missing! Finally Tuesday came. First part of the day wasn't so bad. I kept myself busy with traditional stuff, all of us kids had a shower first thing in the morning (swearing at the previous occupant for using up all the hot water - a cherished family tradition none of us wanted to abandon), while parents made breakfast. We ate in a not particularly pious non-silence, joking around worse than usual even, my younger siblings pretty darn wound up despite present-opening would not occur until the next day. The traditional walk around town followed, and Christmas coffee for me and my parents, milk for the smaller kids along with the large variety of home-made cookies that had been prepared for this occasion.

After that I felt compelled to start preparing for what would come in the afternoon. I wasn't expected to turn up until four PM, but at twelve thirty I was already starting to get worried I would not make it in time. People laughed at me in a kind manner and got in my way as I scurried around the house accomplishing little of any importance. It took my sisters and mother to stop me and make me calm down and become rational again. They wanted to know why I was behaving so oddly and I couldn't tell them the truth: because I was in love, because I didn't KNOW I was in love! All I knew was I wanted to impress the heck out of Jeff, and thus I tried on half my wardrobe before settling on strict, black cotton pants and a white, long-sleeved shirt I'd actually worn at a funeral not too long ago, along with one of my dad's silk neckties, one with a subtle diamond-checkered pattern that made every other diamond-shape look dull and the others shiny depending on the angle light fell on it. He lent me golden cufflinks too, and I wore my best and fanciest ring in my left earlobe. Usually I just have a tiny transparent plastic stud in it to keep the hole from disappearing, most people don't even know I have my lobe pierced... I also put on my golden Mjolnir neck ornament and my rune thumbrings too... I felt something compelling me to look as good as I possibly could!

I fixed my hair myself despite mom wanting to help, combing and spraying it so I'd look hot. Or at least trying to, and I think it worked, considering the level of appreciation I got from said mom, and my sisters too. Or maybe they just were kind to me, but they actually said the girls were going to go crazy when they saw me. Well, I THINK that was meant as a compliment anyway!

Shiny black shoes rounded off the entire package, and then a winter jacket on top to try to not freeze to death on the way. Dad asked if I was REALLY going to walk in those shoes and I stopped completely. I'd been so caught up in it all I hadn't considered they weren't insulated at all and much too fragile to survive. I would have gotten frostbite in my toes had I gone on foot!

"I'll drive you", dad offered.

"But I don't know where he lives!", I protested. "I was going to find out on the way!"

True. I knew the general area, it was the best part of town, but not the exact location. By following streets I knew, I'd find the right one. And then arriving at the correct house would be easy. Dad was not convinced and would not let me go on my own however. "We'll help each other", he said firmly. "Four eyes looking are better than two."

"But I planned for walking! I'll get there early if we drive!"

Dad chuckled soothingly, seeing how tense I was. "Don't worry. I'm sure they'll let you in even if we're a bit early."

I let myself be lead off to the car after the rest of the family had said goodbye to me. It was the first Christmas I'd been away from the rest of them, and it felt a bit strange. I was so terribly exhilarated by visiting Jeff though it did not matter. Off we went, in our old battered Volvo. Huge flakes of snow were coming down from the sky, falling as if in slow-motion, and with this in mind I was really glad I was getting a ride.

We started making our way towards our unknown destination, and houses became ever-more luxurious as we went. After a bunch of streets they broke the million-dollar barrier, and then we were right on the street where Jeff lived. I counted off the ever-increasing numbers, coming closer and closer to the destination, closer and closer to the end of the street, wondering which house it would be. We turned the final corner and then there were only three houses left. One on the left, one on the right and one straight ahead. It could not be the one straight ahead. I knew that place. I'd seen it as a small kid, admired it from a distance and speculated with my equally big-eyed friends what it would be like living at a place like that. It was more like a mansion or maybe a small castle than anything else, surrounded by a tall, black fence, with gates always having barred the way previously. I remembered it looking a bit shabby as if it had been poorly maintained, the garden a bit of a mess. An old hag of a woman lived there I knew, as rich as a troll, as old as the mountains themselves and looking much like a tree-stump, all bent and gnarled. Now the gates were open, colorful Christmas lights strung up all over the fence. A big welcoming sign hanging between the tall fence posts.

I sat there as if in a daze. "I guess this is it...", I heard dad mumble. "Hey! Timmy! I said, 'this is it'!"

I jerked, waking up from my reveries. "Oh... Sorry dad. Yeah, I guess you're right..."

We proceeded up towards the big main entrance. I saw no less than three big cars in front of the huge garage, looking quite a bit like Rolls Royces (and they probably were too); one silver-metallic, the other two either dark-blue or black, it was hard to tell since it was so dark outside already.

Bushes and trees in the garden carried more lights, as did the low hedges lining the road up to the house itself. It looked really Christmassy and inviting, so different from how I remembered seeing the place. I was thinking briefly of what had happened to the old woman, maybe she'd finally keeled over?

Dad stopped briefly on the circular driveway to let me out and waved at me. "Good luck now, Timmy...", he said with a small smile. "Have a great time, okay?"

My nervousness released its strangle-hold on me long enough to be able to answer him. "Yeah, thanks dad!", I replied, and he nodded.

"Be good now. See you later."

He leaned over and pulled the door shut, waved at me again from the inside and drove off. I was all alone now it felt, standing in front of that huge, imposing stone structure that towered four storeys above me with warm, yellow light radiating from every window.

I became very hesitant. Would I dare to walk up those wide steps to ring the doorbell? I was very early after all... Maybe they'd get angry and turn me away?

Suddenly I was in front of those massive wooden doors, without even understanding that I'd taken those steps. Each door had lots of small panes of thick rough glass set in them which gave no view of what laid inside except it was as brightly lit inside that hallway as everywhere else in the huge house... My hand was on the handle to sound the bell, and then I heard a muted chime. I must have pulled it I guess.

The door opened not very long at all after my signal. A somewhat elderly, thin man with gray hair and dressed just like a genuine English butler looked at me questioningly. "Yees...?", he said in a dry voice, his English accent unmistakable. It was even more precise than Jeff's! I presented my invitation card with a shaky hand.

"Ah. Very good, please come inside", the butler said after taking a glance at the card and opened the door wider to let me in. "Young Master Jeffrey will be here shortly, I understand he will be quite pleased to see you-"

"Here I am, William!", a voice I was very familiar with said from behind the man's back. William did not get out of stride at all despite being surprised like that, maybe he was used to it, Jeff trying to unsettle him. Then Jeff's head popped out from behind the butler's frame and he saw me. It took him less than an instant to be at my side I think and then his arms were around my neck, holding me tight in a welcoming hug. His body felt tough and strong, and comforting, and very very friendly... My arms went around him too, and for some reason it did not feel awkward, like it often does when two guys hug each other. Usually you'd start patting the other's back just to not make it feel like you're actually enjoying it or really meaning it or something like that, but Jeff simply held me, his head so close to me I could feel his hair and warm skin touching mine. When he felt my arms around him too (around his chest, since he was taller than me), he actually tightened his grip a little before slowly letting go, and I was almost intoxicated by that whole experience. I had no idea it would feel so nice to be held by another boy, THIS boy actually!

His eyes were shining of happiness when I could look at him again. "Oh Timmy! I'm SO glad you could make it!", he said to me, and he did it with the most utter sincerity I'd ever encountered. He meant it, oh, he MEANT it! Then I felt his hand touching my ear. "Hey... This looks really good on you!", he said and held my earlobe for just a few seconds. I started blushing of course as he was smiling at me. Then I felt his hand move down to my shoulder, and then he began to lead me through his home.

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