I can't believe I'm actually doing this.
Because I love you all. Have a special festive story. Written on the day becase white wine does that to me.
The phone rings, and I drag myself from sleep to pick it up, but the line goes dead before I have a chance to speak. It's been happening more often recently, but I try not to let it get to me. After all, it is Christmas, depite a decided lack of peace on earth.
The power goes out with a descending whine, leaving the morning toast untoasted and me in the murky grey of early-morning light. I sigh theatrically, enjoying the sense of exaggerated misfortune, and shuffle into the living-room with my mobile in hand. I'll call the girlfriend, I think perhaps she'll have made up her mind by-.
"Hello?" the soft, familiar voice asks before I'm ready, and
"Hi", I say tentatively "I was wondering if you'd thought at all about what I said on-"
"Who is it, Fliss?" a sleep-muddied man's tone inquires in the background. The receiver is partially covered by a hand, but not enough to block the sound: "my ex; I'm not sure what he wants,". The sound returns, unmuffled: "What is it you-" she begins to ask, but my fury stops the words at her abstracted lips. "'Ex'? I thought you said you'd think about it - you were going to try to make things work, you said."
"You didn't phone. I assumed that you-"
"Look, I'm sorry. It was an easy mistake to make. It's over, and I-"
"A mistake. This was all a mistake?"
"It's not just about you, you know - I've b-"
I thumb the line closed and drop the phone. Its rings again, and I ignore it as a hole of confusion and anger and loss opens up somewhere in my colon. I stumble to the kitchen, drink milk from the carton in the darkened fridge door. Out the window, I can see that none of the other houses have lost power, and a small child playing with a tatty football is playing on my yellowed front lawn. He kicks. I see a look of malign, impish glee on the face of the boy before his ball crashes through the windowpane and fills the sink with shards. Unbelievably, the creature has not fled, but is standing closer than ever to the broken window, and laughing uproariously at my misfortune and paisley dressing gown. I try to remember whether or not Schadenfreude was one of Santa's little elves.
Instead, I remember how much I hate this place. The mindless acceptance of norms debunked centuries ago, the blinkered horizons and moronic habits, the idealisation of the Golden Mean and Good Fucking Taste. It was no wonder that we never fitted in here.
It always seemed bizarre to me that we select our neighbours by chance and property values rather than inclination and interest.
Enough of this. I drag myself upstairs, realising that a calming cup of tea is an impossibility. The act of dressing, normally mildly enjoyable as a refutation of the provincial shirt-and-slacks norm, becomes a trial - my favourite T-shirt has been taken my person or persons unknown who are almost certainly Felicity.
The shops are rather like Everest, I postulate, turning up my collar at the freezing damp winds that don't hint of snow at all. Not in that they're freezing, uninhabitable, can only be accessed at certain times, and are quite possibly the home to huge and violent beasts of legend, more that the only reason I'm attempting to reach them is that they're there. When I arrive, the Village Store is all I'd expected and more - a wasteland of striplit avenues filled with tinsel and unappetising "organic" foodstuffs. I briefly wonder what inorganic milk would be like, before the raddled woman behind the counter gives me a gimlet stare and
"We're closed," she says.
"But you just served that young man before me"
"Yes. I did. And now we're closed."
I don't bother sighing, and leave, head down. This causes problems outside the shop, where a rogue foot sends me to the damp gravel. Except it isn't a rogue foot. It belongs to the aforementioned young man, who has a lovely shaven head, lovely dirty parka, and, as my ribs soon discover, lovely steel toecaps. He also has some wonderful friends, who entertain me with their witty repartee about "Your sort" for a good ten minutes, before they get too cold and bored to continue kicking.
I only sustain minor bruising and lose a couple of fillings. It's the journey home that's the worst. There's something about the sight of people intentionally swerving towards you through puddles that's inexplicably depressing.
I spend the rest of the day shopping elsewhere, and dropping it off where it will be most appreciated.
On Christmas Eve, the whole community will be down at the church for some festive mince pies and mulled wine. It's Traditional, and Brings People Together. Apparently, this is a good thing. I arrive late, two minutes to midnight. It is freezing outside. Inside it is warm and light and the lot of them are no doubt solving all the world's problems by now.
I walk in, and all eyes follow. I stand by the Nativity scene, under which I left my shopping earlier. I pour the contents of a bottle from my pocket over my head and look about me. Not a shred of compassion or concern.
The clock strikes.
I light the match