As Max was enthusiastically munching away, Carol made a mug of tea and absentmindedly sipped on it. Her thoughts were with that Christmas eve so many years ago. Looking at that evening, so many years later, she had to admit she was being a bit of a bitch, even if she had all the reason in the world. But then again, that was such a long time ago… And besides, whose to say that that ghost wasn’t making her misremember things? Whose to say the ghost was real anyway?? She took a sip of her tea when, suddenly, the cabinet doors started to shake and the kitchen lights flashed. While Max continued eating as if nothing was happening, Carol, terrified, dropped her mug on the floor where it broke into ceramic pieces. In the middle of the kitchen a black hole formed and grew until it turned into a human form: a beautiful blonde woman in a white dress showing only the slightest hint of transparency. And of course, there was the fact that she was floating above the kitchen floor. Carol blinked.
‘I’m sorry my dear’ the apparition said, ‘I didn’t mean to scare you. My predecessor told you I would come, right?’
– ‘… R-right.’
‘Ah good to hear! Shame about the shards on the floor, but you can clean them when we return. I am the ghost of Christmas present. Come dear, we have places to go.’
The ghost of Christmas present took Carol’s hand and suddenly Carol felt light as a feather, in fact she was shocked to find that they were rising up in the air. Her dog did not seem to mind a bit and before Carol could say goodbye to him they flew throughthe ceiling into her (never used) guest room, and again through the roof into the open air. Strangely, Carol did not feel cold.
Higher and higher they soared and Carol gazed with wonder at the city lights below; how beautiful and small everything was from up here! Even the skyscrapers looked like Lego blocks from up here.
‘Where are you taking me?’ Carol asked.
– ‘You’ll see.’
They soon left the city and followed a road far beneath them, which, lighted up by car headlights, reminded Carol of a yellow writhing snake. She marveled at the scenery, with its green pastures, tiny houses and intertwining roads. Soon enough they lowered altitude to arrive at a village. Lower and lower they went, and as the houses regained their normal size Carol realized their destination: ‘this is where my sister lives!’ she cried.
‘Indeed it is’ the ghost of Christmas Present said. They landed on the front lawn of Amy’s house. ‘Let’s see what your sister is up to, shall we?’ she said as she opened the front door. ‘Don’t worry, they can’t see us.’
Carol entered the living room, which was decorated with lights and garland and evergreen foliage. Next to the gas fueled fireplace stood a beautiful Christmas tree. Carol’s own house had no decorations at all – not that she had the time for such frivolities anyway. Yet she couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy at the coziness she saw here. Mason sat in front of the TV, watching some children’s Christmas special. From upstairs she could here muffled voices. They sounded angry. This, Carol wanted to investigate.
As she walked up the stairs, she distinctly heard Amy’s voice:
‘… and you bet we’ll have to discuss her ‘blooming career’ as a cardiologist for hours on end!’
they were talking about her!
– ‘honey I’m sure it won’t be that bad’ responded Eric.
‘of course it will! It’ll just be hours of her telling stories about this patient she saved and that patient she cared sooo much about. Like she’s an archangel. She does it every year!’ Amy was aggressively sorting the laundry.
– ‘well maybe a bit, but her career is kind of impressive…’
‘And you know what’s the worst about it? I don’t think she even likes her career!’
– ‘well honey I think that’s a bit…’
‘No really! I know my sister. I know when she’s happy and when she’s unhappy. The way she talks about her career, I think she hates it. But she won’t admit it, nooo no. Instead she’ll just talk about it evenmore, like she’s trying to convince herself she really does like what she’s doing. And mom loves having a doctor in the family, so she won’t say anything.’
– ‘Hmmm, I don’t know, we shouldn’t jump to hasty conclusions.’
‘But you know, I could get passed all that’ Amy huffed, ‘I really could, if it weren’t for the fact that every year she so obviously flirts with you.’
Eric turned red. ‘Ho-honey, I don’t know what you’re talking about. She’s just being friendly.’ Amy turned around, her eyes fire: ‘just like she’s been ‘friendly’ with every ex she’s ever been with.’
– ‘Babe you’re overreacting. Really, there’s nothing going on. You’re acting crazy!’
Amy lowered her eyes and shoulders. ‘I dunno. Maybe I am. I just… I want us to be a happy family…’ She walked up to Eric and rested her head on his chest. ‘I just want to love my sister. Why does she have to make things so difficult?’
Erik stroked her hair, overcoming his confusion. ‘Hey hey, I’m sure things will be fine.’
‘OK,’ repeated Amy, ‘I’m sure things will be fine.’
Carol witnessed the exchange in silence, but inside she was screaming. How dareher sister talk about her in that way? How dareAmy suggest that she didn’t like her job? Was her sister thathateful? After all, Amy was only a receptionist while she saved lives. Yeah, that probably was it…
‘But willthings be fine?’ The voice of the ghost of Christmas present shook Carol out of her thoughts. ‘What?’ she stammered.
‘What I just said: will things be fine?’
– ‘Well… Yes… Of course. Although I am disappointed of how jealous she apparently is of my career.’
‘Oh, she’sthe one being jealous? What about her accusation of you flirting with her husband?’
– ‘She’s exaggerating. I’m a natural flirt is all.’
‘I see… Well, we’ll be heading back home. The final ghost will be visiting you soon.’ She took Amy’s hand and soon enough they were flying miles high, back to the city. Amy said nothing.
Back in her own kitchen, Amy absentmindedly swept together the mug shards while Max sniffed the floor besides her. The ghost of Christmas present had disappeared, but her remarks lingered. Was she the one who envied her sister? Who would want to be a receptionist anyway! Or perhaps that wasn’t what the ghost meant… But whatever the ghost did mean, Amy was unable to put it into words. Perhaps… Perhaps her sister was not as lonely than she was. Perhaps there was some truth in that. But a successful career demanded sacrifices, and it wasn’t like those sacrifices were a problem for anyone but her, were they?