Sunday 28 November 2010

Noel & Natala Excerpt

Christmas depressed the hell out of Noel Harris. Well, if he was truthful, every day was hard to take without Nancy. But the Christmas season in particular added salt to his very slow-healing wound. It didn’t last one day, like her birthday or their wedding anniversary. It lasted a whole damn month.

He sighed and released a heavy breath, causing his chest to tighten with the pain of losing what they’d had. He wished he could release the strain associated with the holiday as easily as releasing a breath. But he’d been through enough in his life to know better than that.

The Christmas carols in the background didn’t help. After so many years of avoiding the Yuletide holiday, he should’ve known the music would be everywhere—in the overcrowded shopping centers, on TV and even on the radio playing in the kitchen.

This Christmas marked the fifth year that Nancy had been absent from his life, and he was determined to at least try to push past the heartbreak.

It’s time to move on.

Noel moved forward and poured himself a shot of eggnog. As the creamy liquid sloshed into the glass, he couldn’t help but think that life had cursed this season for him from the beginning. The first Christmas Noel could remember had been when he was five, which happened to be the year his father walked out on the family. When he was ten, his mother died shortly after the same holiday, and then there was Nancy...

He could count off every event inside his head, and it amounted to the same thing: Bad luck liked to haunt him during the Christmas season.

“Not this year,” he whispered to himself. This year was going to be the first time he broke the curse. He took a sip of the eggnog and followed it with a bite of fruit cake. He swallowed the lump, chasing it down with more liquid. A bitter taste lingered inside his mouth. Somehow, eggnog never tasted sweet to him.

He hunched down and opened the end of the tattered box of lights on the floor below the tree. He’d purchased a big tree, but instead of decorating it with tinsel, he’d purchased a long string of lights the store owner told him “would last for the rest of his life”. The box was a little worse for wear but the man behind the counter claimed it had been in storage for years, and was the only set of its kind. “A true original”, he’d said with a smile.

Noel had shrugged and bought it at a bargain price.

Now, as he started to pull the green tangled cord out of the box, he noticed it did look as good as new. Actually there was a shiny quality to it that made him feel—for the first time in a long while—some real Christmas cheer.

It took him longer than he’d expected to wrap the lights around the wide tree. By the end of it he’d worked up a sweat. Luckily, the air conditioning flowed inside the house, cooling the sweat beads as they dripped down the sides of his hairline.

He took another sip of the eggnog. It didn’t satisfy his thirst, but right now he didn’t care. Noel was jumping over a huge hurdle in his life and was determined to see it through to the end.

“Here we go. It’s show time.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at his own lame joke. At times like these, he wished he had someone to share his life with again. He instantly wiped the thought out from his mind. No, being with someone meant he would eventually forget Nancy. Even if putting up a Christmas tree was no fun without someone to share it with, Noel had to keep her memory alive. And that means being alone.

Although, sometimes he did wish they’d had enough time to have children before cancer gripped its claws around Nancy. At least then, a small part of her would have survived.

When he thought of all the chemotherapy and alternate treatments they’d tried, a sharp pain stabbed at his heart. He would’ve gladly given his own life to save hers. Nancy had been a ray of sunshine in his otherwise bleak existence. The day she died, the light of his life had shut off forever.

He sighed.

It took him a while to hunch over and plug the lights in but when he finally managed it, the lightshow didn’t disappoint. A symphony of red, green, gold and white lights sparkled in front of him—each alternating with the corresponding colors so that the pattern was always different.

Noel stared in awe as the lights captivated his eyes. He took several steps back and lowered himself onto the armchair. “Jingle Bells” suddenly seemed like the perfect background music, much better than all those depressing hard rock songs he always chose as the soundtrack of his life.

The first step on the road to recovery. He smiled, satisfied, and began to refill his glass.

Pop! Without warning the first light zapped off and a line of black smoke rose up toward the ceiling. Noel swore, eggnog forgotten, and jumped out of the armchair. He had to check the wall plug before the whole thing caught on fire.

One by one, each of the lights zapped off with the same popping noise. Noel swore again.

He quickly leaned over, switched off the power on the wall, and then pulled the plug out. This house was the only thing he had left that could bring any—no matter how small—joy into his life. Life insurance protection had paid off the balance, and allowed him to live a more comfortable life than his hardware store clerk position ever could on its own.

Nancy had been the career woman. All he’d ever wanted was a job to pay the bills.

He made his way around to the front of the tree, to make sure nothing had caught fire. The stench of burnt plastic made him cough. Still, there were no flames and the smoke he had spotted when the first light blew had dissipated.

What Noel did notice made his heart speed up. There was a single light still blinking. A gold one situated at the very center of the tree.

He double checked the plug. It was still lying on the floor, away from the socket, exactly where he’d left it.

It didn’t make any sense.

Was the bitterness clouding his life making him delusional as well? It was possible, he supposed. There was only so much a person could take before their mind decided to shut down and offer another perspective. No matter how unrealistic.

A warm ambience radiated off the single blinking light. It made him feel oddly calm. Before Noel realized what he was doing, his right hand captured the small globe in his palm.

A small sigh echoed around him. He kept his hand around the small light as he checked over his shoulder. There was no one there. He was still alone. When he turned his attention back to the small globe, it blinked faster.

What I wouldn’t give for some company right now, he thought to himself. Someone to see the bizarre thing he held in his hand, so they could confirm his sanity.

The light’s flickering slowed. He leaned closer and noticed a small face inside it.

“What the hell?” Noel dropped the bulb and lurched backwards. The lights, the loneliness and endless thoughts were playing tricks with his eyes.

Instinct made him duck just in time. The small light exploded into a thousand tiny pieces that fell around him, but each gold particle disappeared before it reached the floor.

He fought hard to control the nervous tension flooding his body. The sense of a presence hovered around him. When he lifted his face, he spotted a pair of small, bare feet on the floor only a few steps in front of him. Slowly, he followed the feet up towards the small ankles and up the slim short legs that became equally slim thighs.

“Where am I?” a bewildered female voice asked.

Demon of Christmas Past is now available in eBook and Kindle.

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