‘T was the day of Christmas and Carol Andrews was sitting in front of the mirror, applying her favorite red lipstick. She was going to spend her evening with her family, and for reasons known yet unknown to Carol, she wanted to look her utmost best. The make-up on her face was exquisite and the cocktail dress hanging from the coat hanger would surely put her at the center of attention. Carol was by no means the prettiest girl in the world, but she’d always be one of the prettier ones.
Now it was usually the case that Carol did not have time to make herself as pretty as she was doing this snowy Christmas day. After all, Carol had a busy job as a cardiologist at Saint Jude’s hospital. Besides, she had learned soon enough that looking pretty only distracted people from taking her serious as a doctor.
But today was different. Carol had taken hours to prepare for the family dinner. So immersed she was in her task that she had even neglected to feed Max, her dog, who was now scratching the bedroom door and making crying sounds, indicating he was hungry. But Carol did not hear him, so fixated was she on her image in the mirror.
‘Aren’t I pretty?’ Carol asked aloud. To her bewilderment, a child’s voice answered: ‘yes you are.’ With a shock she turned away from the mirror and saw a young girl in long robes standing behind her in the bedroom. ‘how did you get in here!?’ Carol cried.
– ‘I’ve been standing here for a while’ the girl promptly declared. ‘You just didn’t notice me.’
‘What? No, I mean how did you get in my house?’
The girl shrugged. ‘I enter any house I want to.’ Angry, Carol stood up and grabbed the girl by her shoulder. That would be, if there was any shoulder to grab, for Carol’s hand went straight through the girl as if there was only air. ‘OHMYGOD’ she yelled.
‘Please don’t shout,’ said the girl. ‘I know, I’m not human. I am the ghost of Christmas past. Nice to meet you!’ The girl made a slight knee bow while she held her robes.
Carol stared in disbelief. ‘I… I.. Did not… know… ghosts are real?’ The girl giggled. ‘Of course we are!’
‘Yea silly, I’m only the first of three Christmas ghosts who will visit you today. Come, I’ve got something to show you!’ The girl grabbed Carol’s hand (which suddenly felt as fleshy and real as any hand) and immediately the room started to spin, dizzying Carol.
When spinning stopped, they were no longer in Carol’s bedroom, but instead stood in a living room Carol immediately recognized. ‘But… This is mom’s old house!’ she said. ‘With her furniture!’ Amazed, Carol walked around and touched everything she thought was but a distant memory. ‘It even smells like it used to!’ She turned to the girl. ‘What’s going on?’ But just as the ghost was about to answer, two girls came running in the living room screaming.
‘GIVE ME BACK MY DIARY CARRY OR I’LL KICK THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF YOU’
– ‘NOOOO YOU CAN’T HAVE IT YOU CAN’T HAVE IT’
From the kitchen sounded a loud woman’s voice: ‘BE NICE GIRLS.’
‘BUT MOOOOM CAROL TOOK MY DIARY AND SHE WON’T GIVE IT BACK.’
Mother’s head appeared in the doorway: ‘Carol you will give your sister back her diary right NOW if you know what’s good for you. It’s Christmas eve for god’s sake…’
With a pout young Carol gave her sister back the diary, while old Carol stared at the scene in disbelief. ‘But… that’s me! Teenage me! And teenage Amy! And my mother!’
‘Yep’ said the ghost of Christmas past. ‘They can’t see you though!’ Carol nonetheless crouched and waved her hand in front of younger Carol’s face, who had now royally installed herself on the couch. But young Carol continued as if adult Carol was invisible indeed.
‘I don’t need to read your stupid diary,’ she said, ‘I know what’s in it anyway.’
‘Uh huh. It’s about Eeeric.’
Amy didn’t say anything but turned red like Rudolf’s nose.
‘Aaah I knew it I knew it. Amy and Eric sitting in a tree K I S S I N G!’
– ‘Shut up! You’re doing the same thing with Jackson!’
Young Carol shook her head. ‘Nah, I broke up with him. The long distance thing wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Besides, who wants to be tied down when you can par-TAY?’
-‘ohmygod but he is so cool!’
Carol shrugged. ‘So? It’s not like he’s the only guy in the world. Besides, he wants to stay here his whole life. How boring isthat!’
– ‘your guy standard is way too high’
‘and yours too low. I mean, Eric, really? He’s as boring as watching needles fall out of a pine tree.’
– ‘take that back!’
Amy jumped on her sister but was quickly overpowered and started screaming as Carol pulled her hair. Their mother rushed in the room and pulled them apart. ‘Ladies, we are having a PEACEFUL Christmas family dinner and I won’t have you two tearing into each other, are we clear?’
– ‘it’s not family dinner, dad’s not here’ Carol spit out.
‘You’ll have dinner with dad tomorrow. Today it’s just the three of us.’
– ‘I don’t wanna have dinner with you losers.’
– ‘You heard me.’ Carol stood up. ‘I HATE you and I don’t want to have dinner with you.’ She ran off to her room. Amy started to tear up, and her mother hugged her. ‘There there.’ ‘Why does she have to be like that?’ Amy sobbed. Mother sighed. ‘Your sister has taken it all a bit harder than you have. I’m sure she’ll be fine. I’ll talk to her in a bit. You go watch the stew, make sure it’s not overcooking, okay sweetie?’
Adult Carol had watched everything with big eyes. ‘I remember this’ she said to the ghost. ‘This was the first Christmas after mom and dad split. God I hated my family.’
The ghost turned her head slightly sideways. ‘Hated, as in past tense?’
– ‘Well, I mean… We never really talked about it, I guess. Every Christmas since has been awkward. Like, only slightly preferable to staying at home alone. I guess it’s better to be alone together than alone… alone.’
The ghost turned her head sideways. ‘Your sister seems nice!’
– ‘Yeah, she is, isn’t she… Always so god damn perfect.’
‘Seemed to me she was envious of you.’
– ‘Yeah… I guess she was… Funny how times change.’
‘Teehee!’ The ghost girl twirled on her feet. ‘Well it’s time for us to go back! Soon my friend will visit you!’ Again she grabbed Carol’s hand, the room spun, and when the spinning stopped Carol was back in her bedroom.
‘Goodbye Carol, it was nice to meet you!’ the ghost waved her hands as she faded into nothingness.
Carol watched curiously as the ghost disappeared and stood motionless, sunken in her thoughts. What had just happened? Am I hallucinating? Did what I think happen really happen? She turned to the mirror and examined her face. She touched her lips. Red lipstick stuck on her fingers. What was I doing here in the first place? A loud cry from her dog tore her out of her thoughts. Ohmigod, Max!Carol realized she had totally forgotten about him. She rushed to open the door and gave him a big hug. ‘Who’s a good boy, you’re a good boy, yes you’re my good boy!’ Whatever just happened could wait, she had to feed Max.