The yell pinged through the heating ducts straight to the black woman seated on the hardwood floor in the living room. An explosion of boxes, tissue paper, and tinsel surrounded her.
"Maybe if I ignore her, she'll leave me alone," she muttered, pushing a handful of long, black corn rows behind her ear.
Growling irritably, Faith resolved not to answer.
"What?" she screamed back, flinging herself supine amid the clutter, empty boxes scattering and tinsel skittering.
"Where in the hell is that box?"
"There are 40 million goddamned boxes down there, and I'm supposed to know which one?" Faith mumbled to herself, throwing an arm across her eyes in defeat.
She stayed like that, not caring if Rachelle was waiting for an answer, until she heard footsteps pounding up the basement stairs.
"The box, Faith?"
Without moving any other muscles, Faith asked again, "Which box?"
"The one I'm looking for!"
"Ohhhh, that one," she answered drolly.
"Girl, you don't tell me where that box is, were gonna have big trouble," the other woman threatened, her right hand on her hip and a snap in her dark eyes.
"Can you be more specific?" Faith moved her arm just enough to uncover one brown eye.
"It's the box with the little drummer boy figure your mom got us last year."
"Oh. You mean the one we put away in a manger with the others?"
"Yeah, that one." Rachelle tapped her toe impatiently.
"Oh." There was silence as Faith tried to locate it in her mind. "On top of the box wrapped in that pretty paper. Under the stairs."
Rachelle snapped her fingers in acknowledgement. "Gotcha!" Then she turned on her heel and tore back down the stairs.
"Found it!" Faith heard mere seconds later. She listened to her partner drag the big box up the stairs, one loud THUMP at a time.
"So, honey, you want to tell me why you're just laying there?" Rachelle asked, dropping down next to Faith.
The other woman just shrugged.
"Well, come on," Rachelle urged, slapping the other woman on the thigh. "We have to deck the halls before this weekend, you know."
"Ugh," Faith groaned. "Don't remind me about this weekend."
"But you like when your parents come to visit. Look!" Rachelle yelped. "The silver bells for the mantle. And the jingle bells for the door. Praise Jesus! Now I don't have to go back down there."
"Good for you." Faith still hadn't moved from her position on the floor.
"Cheer up, Sunshine, it could be worse. They could be bringing your sis-" The last word was cut off by a hand over her mouth.
"Don't say it. Don't even think it."
The two women were startled by the phone ringing.
"I swear to God, if you jinxed this, Rachelle Stevens, I'm going to kick your sweet black ass," Faith hissed as she reached for the cordless handset.
One short conversation later, she disconnected and turned slowly to glare at her partner. "Thank you. Thank you very, very much."
Rachelle clapped a hand over her own mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
"They're bringing my sister and that idiot dog of hers. And," she paused to take a calming breath, "someone special," she finished in a simpering, nasal voice.
Unable to contain it any longer, Rachelle burst out in loud guffaws, tears of mirth leaking out of her eyes. "Oh my God," she hooted. "This is going to be one hell of a Christmas."
"Oh yay. My nutty father, my eccentric mother, my batty sister, her psycho dog, and her new love Merry friggin' Christmas to me."
"This is going to be priceless!" Rachelle rubbed her hands together gleefully.
Faith turned her eyes heaven-ward. "Dear God," she prayed fervently, "please let it snow so they can't make it. Amen."
Suddenly Faith jumped up and hurdled the boxes and the other woman on the floor. She grabbed her coat and keys and yanked open the front door.
"Hey!" Rachelle yelled, scrambling to her feet and going to the door. "Girl, where do you think youre going?"
"Don't worry, I'll be home for Christmas. A blue christmas, to be exact." she answered before slamming the door of the Impala shut. She gunned the engine and squealed out of the driveway.
"She better get home," Rachelle said softly. "I ain't about to entertain those wack-jobs by myself."
***** ***** *****
Rachelle was just fluffing the limbs of their artificial Christmas tree when the door burst open. She stared, in fear and wonder, as a disembodied hand deposited plastic bag after plastic bag inside the house. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the body attached to the hand.
"Thank God!" she screamed as she launched herself at the woman, pretending to cry dramatically. And loudly. "I was so WORRIED!"
"Get off me, fool," Faith said, untangling herself from Rachelle.
Rachelle shrugged. "Fine. When I tell you that tonight, dont go getting all pissy with me." She smoothed her straight black hair down again and went back to fluffing, ignoring Faith completely.
"Aren't you going to ask what's in the bags?" Faith questioned.
"Don't you want to know?"
"I'm tellin' you anyway." Faith took her coat off and hung it up on the rack. As she pulled items from the bags, she needlessly named them. "Balls. Tinsel. Garland. Lights. Candy canes. And last, but definitely not least, a star."
Her final pronouncement was met with silence.
"Well?" she finally asked, looking closely for a reaction. Any reaction.
"Uh, Faith? Honey? It's all blue.
"Great, isn't it?" she smirked, crossing her arms over her chest and looking in satisfaction at her haul.
"It's tacky. My mother abhors blue anything for Christmas. So this year guess what?"
"Blue everything," Rachelle stated.
"That's right. BLUE EVERYTHING. Now let's get cracking, girl."
It took the two women several hours to decorate the tree and the rest of the house. At last they were sitting on the couch, their feet on the coffee table, sipping hot chocolate from huge blue mugs.
"Tell me again why we're not drinking coffee?" Faith asked, her corn rows held back with a piece of gold curling ribbon.
"Hot chocolate is Christmas. We HAVE to have it. It's tradition."
"All righty, then. Far be it for me to break from tradition."
Rachelle snorted, a rather unladylike sound coming from the pretty woman.
"So do you think we'll have a white Christmas this year?" Faith asked, choosing to ignore the other woman's sarcasm.
"We can only hope. But it doesn't seem quite right without it, you know? There has to be snow to make it the most wonderful time of the year. I'd like that glittery snow that turns everything into a beautiful, sparkling winter wonderland."
"Mmm until Cujo the wonder dog pisses everywhere."
Rachelle sighed in exasperation. "Really, Faith. He's not THAT bad."
"Like hell he's not. Even his name is down-right freaky."
"I don't know. I kinda think it's cute."
"You would," Faith muttered, turning her head away.
"Whaja say?" Rachelle asked, pinning her partner with a dark stare.
"Uh, more wood. We need more wood." She set her mug down and stood up. "Be right back."
"Hey!" Rachelle yelled after her. "What do you want this year? And please don't say-"
"All I want for Christmas is you, sug," Faith finished, neatly stacking the wood in the cast iron wood bin.
"You are absolutely the worst person to shop for," Rachelle grumbled, leaning against Faith when she sat down again.
"Okay, seriously, all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth," she said with a laugh.
"You're going to need 'em after I knock yours out."
"I have everything I want already," Faith said softly, putting an arm around Rachelle. "A decent job, a roof over my head, a completely insane family, and uh hmm " Faith scratched her head in puzzlement, her fine brows knit in consternation.
"Me," Rachelle supplied, jabbing her in the side with an elbow.
"Oh right, me." Jab. "Sorry, I meant you," she teased, wrapping both arms around the other woman. "That's the best present of all."
Rachelle just beamed at her. Then she looked around the small living room. "You know, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in here finally."
Rachelle sat up straighter as Faith smacked herself in the forehead. "What?"
"Chestnuts. I forgot chestnuts for roasting," Faith answered forlornly, waving her hand at the wood stove.
"But you hate the smell of chestnuts roasting on an open fire," Rachelle pointed out, also waving a hand in the same general direction.
"I know. So does my mother." Then, "Do you think we can find them in blue?"
***** ***** *****
"Uh, Rachelle," Faith said softly, nudging the other woman's foot with her own. "Do you hear what I hear?"
"Huh?" was Rachelle's groggy reply.
"That noise. Do you hear it?"
Both women listened, one intently, the other half-heartedly.
" 'scoming from?" mumbled Rachelled, pulling the comforter up farther and snuggling deeper into her pillow.
Faith pointed to the ceiling. "Up on the housetop. Listen."
Sure enough, even Rachelle was able to hear footsteps and muffled thuds coming from above. "What the hell is that?" she asked.
"Dad," they answered simultaneously, continuing to stare at the ceiling.
"Honest to Christ, I'm going to kill all of them," Faith promised, rolling out of bed. "Its the crack of ass, and hes up there farting with the decorations."
"Now, Faith," Rachelle cautioned, slipping out of bed to go stand behind Faith. Both women were roughly the same height, but Rachelle was more slender than her partner. Still, she found it easy enough to wrap her arms around Faith and pull her close. She nudged the long braids aside and kissed Faith's warm neck. "Remember love, joy and happiness and all that."
"Yippy. Joy to the world. And to my parents, God help me."
"And to your sister," Rachelle added.
"Fine. But I draw the line at Cujo."
Rachelle laughed. "Fair enough. Come on, we better go find your folks."
A few minutes later, Faith opened the front door to find her mother, Sophia, bedecked in a faux fur coat, fake leather driving gloves, and what looked like a black velvet muff on her head, leaning against the mini-van in the driveway. She was looking up at the sky with a concerned expression on her face.
"Be careful, Raymond. Don't drop anything!" she called up to the gray sky.
"Your priorities are all screwed up, Mom," she called, catching the other's attention.
"Honey!" her mother called, coming up the short sidewalk to stand at the bottom of the steps. "Guess who's up on your roof again?" she asked, pointing up.
"Well, it ain't jolly old St. Nicholas," she yelled loudly, craning her neck to see if she could locate her father.
"Nope," her dad called down. "Good King Wenceslaus."
"Well come on, Wency. Get down from there and come inside. It's cold out here." She pulled her robe tighter around her as she spoke the last words.
Rachelle kissed her on the cheek. "I'll go put on some coffee." Then she disappeared into the kitchen.
"Come on, Dad!" Faith yelled again, glaring at her mother. "Where's Taneisha?" she asked the older woman.
"In the van. She says it's too cold for Rudolph."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Well, it won't be too cold in the garage."
"Now, Faith," her mother admonished. "You know he's unhappy without his mommy. Besides," she added, lowering her voice to a whisper and casting a glance back at the van, "her new flame likes Rudy."
"Oh for Christ's sake," Faith swore softly. "She needs-"
"Whoops! Watch it!"
The yell came from the roof as a huge plastic, light-up snowman slid elegantly off the roof headfirst and onto the ground, it's head breaking off and shooting into the nearby bushes.
"There goes Frosty the snowman. One down, two to go," Faith commented to her mother. "Dad, for God's sake, get down NOW!"
"I'm right here, honeybun. No need to scream," her dad said as he walked around the front of the house dragging a ladder behind him. "Sorry 'bout Frosty there," he threw over his shoulder as he walked by.
Faith's attention was drawn from her father when the side door of the van slid open. The first occupant out was-
"Cujo!" Faith yelped in mock gladness. She bounced up and down and clapped her hands. "Oh goody."
As soon as the little dog heard her voice, he made a beeline to her, snarling and barking the whole way. Before Faith could get back inside the house, Rudolph grabbed her bathrobe and pulled, growling ferociously.
"Let go, you pop-eyed weasel!" Faith yelled, trying to pull the cloth away from him. The dog let go and snatched the slipper right off of her foot. Then he took off around the back of the house.
"Get back here!" Faith jumped down the stairs to give chase.
"Run, Rudolph, run!"
Faith smacked her younger sister on the side of the head as she sprinted past. "Shut up, moron!"
By the time she rescued her slipper, the four visitors were in the living room, cups of coffee and doughnuts in hand.
"Look what your goddamned dog did to my slipper," Faith growled, throwing the thing at her sister. Then she noticed who her sister was snug tight against.
"Yes, a woman. Now close your mouth before you catch flies, honey," Rachelle answered as she slipped past, brushing her hand against Faith's backside as she went.
Incredulous eyes turned to stare first at Rachelle, then back at her sister. "Since when are you gay?" she asked rudely.
"Since I met the first Noel back in August. This is the second Noel," her sister answered bluntly, moving her hand higher up on the second Noel's thigh.
"I guess Ill have to return the kneepads I was getting you for Christmas." Faith said as she sat in the only empty seat in the room.
"Shut up. Where's my dog?" her sister asked.
"Dead, I hope."
"Faith!" four female voices scolded.
"That Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer you got up there looks pretty shaky. Better let me anchor it," her father said, staring up at the ceiling as if he could see the statue in question.
"Forget it, Dad."
"I could run to True Value and pick up some 6" screws and bolts. Drill right into the roofin'. That'll hold 'im."
"The hell you will. No way, Dad." Faith could feel her stress level steadily rising.
"How 'bout ropin' 'im to the chimney?" he asked.
Faith let her head drop onto the back of the chair. She took a deep breath, held it for a count of ten, then let it out on a loud, shrill scream.
Patting Faith's hand, Rachelle turned to the two younger woman. "So where did you meet Taneisha, Noel?" she asked politely.
"In our water ballet class," she answered.
"We both signed up for the same class at the Y back home. It was love at first sight," Taneisha cooed, leaning in to kiss her newest love.
"Make me puke. I'm going to get dressed." With that, Faith got up and went upstairs.
When she came back down, she went into the living room, fully expecting to find everyone still there. What she found instead was her sister and the second Noel swapping spit and groping each other like a couple of hormonal teenagers.
"Get a room," she said, shoving her sister off the couch and thereby shoving her off the second Noel. "Christ, I'm going to hurl."
"You're just jealous because you can't kiss as good as I can," her sister snapped, licking her already wet lips and leaning back on her hands, effectively making her chest stick out considerably.
"Z'at so?" Faith asked, arching an eyebrow and crossing her arms.
Her sister tipped her head back, swimsuit-model-like, and nodded. "Yup."
Faith turned to look at the second Noel. "How old are you?"
"Good. Over the age of consent." Without warning, Faith hopped over the back of the couch, landing right next to her sister's girlfriend. She turned slightly towards the girl and reached a hand around to the back of the other woman's neck. Then she pulled her in for a deep, intimate kiss. Her other hand slipped up to rest on the girl's waist, her thumb brushing the underside of her breast.
When Faith finally pulled back, the second Noel blinked in a daze and looked at her fuzzily.
"Wow," was all the girl could manage.
Smirking at her sister, Faith got up and left the room.
"Bitch!" she heard.
"Amateur," she called back.
Laughing when she heard the girlfriend say "Let's, uh go upstairs for a, uh bit, Taneisha," Faith made her way into the kitchen, kicking at the dog when he snapped at her. "Retard," she muttered.
Inside the tidy kitchen, Faith found the two other women. "How do you like the decorations, Mom?" she asked, grabbing a banana off the counter and peeling it.
"They're lovely, I'm sure, dear. But don't you think a different color would have been nicer? Blue is so tacky." Her mother took another sip from her blue mug.
"Nope. Where's my crazy father?"
Both women looked up.
"Oh MAN," Faith moaned. "Don't you people have Christmas in Dixie? Why do you have to keep coming here?" she asked her mother.
"Because we love you, dear, and we know you miss us," her mother answered smoothly.
"You keep right on thinking that, Mommy dearest. I'm going to get the old man off the roof before he kills himself." On her way out the back door, Faith dumped her banana skin in the trash can.
"I'll come, too, Faith," Rachelle said. "Just let me get this lettuce in the fridge."
Faith and Rachelle went out into the backyard, walking out far enough to see the man on the roof.
"Dad, leave it alone now!" Faith hollered.
"Almost done," he called down cheerfully, just as the Santa figure tipped precariously to the side.
"Well," Faith said in a low voice, watching it happen, "here comes Santa Claus." The plastic figure slid off the roof, much like Frosty did earlier. Only, instead of his head, it was his feet that busted off and rolled into the driveway.
***** ***** *****
"Mom," Faith began as she walked in the door. "How long do you intend on staying?"
"Until the day after Christmas." Her mother didn't look up, but continued to flip through the magazine she was reading.
"No way! You are not staying for the twelve days of Christmas. You CAN'T!" Faith shrieked.
"Your grandmother's not expecting us until late on the 28th," her mother informed her.
Putting an arm around Faith's waist to console her and offer support, Rachelle asked pleasantly, "How is Mother Grace?"
"Oh, she's fine. She had a small accident several weeks ago that Faith would've known about if she ever called, but she's fine now."
"Grandma got run over by a reindeer" was her sister's reply as the younger woman walked into the kitchen carrying Rudolph.
"Your ass is a reindeer. There are no reindeer in Alabama," Faith told her.
"Then she hit a deer, or something."
"Well, the old battle-axe was probably fluffing all that blue hair or re-plastering her face."
The conversation was ended prematurely by her father's appearance at the back door. He was carrying a small paper bag and Faith's cordless drill. "All done. No way Rudolph's falling off now. Matter of fact, he could probably stay up 'til next year."
"Christ," Faith whispered, dropping her head into her hands in dejection. "Where'd you get those?"
"Carol," Raymond answered simply, setting the drill and extra bolts on the table.
"Who the hell is Carol?" Faith growled.
"Carol of the Bells Hardware uptown," he answered, sitting next to his wife.
"You mean the nice girl married to the Mexican what's his name?" her mother asked, smiling at him.
"Don't know. Adeste Fideles Fidel Castro Feliz Navidad something like that," he answered absently. "How sturdy is the ol Christmas tree?"
"O Christmas tree is fine, Dad. Don't even go near it," Faith warned him. "Leave it alone. And his name is Federíco."
"Yup, what I said."
"Mom," Taneisha interrupted, "remember that Christmas when I was, like, four, and Faith was eleven? And that kid told her there was no Santa?"
"What child is this, sweetie?" her mother asked.
"Oh, hell James. James Reed. Remember him?" Taneisha grinned evilly at her sister.
"Not that story again!" Faith yelled at the two of them.
"Reed? Reed. Oh, Mary's boy child. Why yes, I do recall that Christmas." The older woman settled in to tell her story. "Faith came running into the house with cousin Holly and the Ivy girl from down the street right behind her."
"Yeah, and she was crying and all snot-nosed, right? And the girls were laughing at her " Taneisha kissed and stroked her dog while she waited.
"Crying like her heart was breaking, she was. I tried telling her that Santa was real, but she kept screaming, I met Santa! The real Santa! I sat on his lap and met his wife and everything. I pulled Santas beard, remember? Goodness, it was sad."
"Pathetic is more like it," Taneisha amended. "Then she-"
"Stop!" Faith grabbed her sister by the arm, flicking the dog on his nose when he snarled at her, and dragged the girl and dog to the back door. "Shut up and go hang Cujo outside." With that, she shoved the two of them out the door and slammed it shut. "I'm going to watch TV."
Going into the living room, Faith first plugged in the tree, its blue lights flashing crazily, then she dropped onto the couch, remote in hand. She didn't bother looking up when her father wandered into the room.
"Don't sit in that chair," she ordered just as he was about to sit down in the rocking chair near the tree.
"Oh." He straightened up. "Why not?"
"Yup. So?" He looked at her, waiting patiently for an answer.
"Because, Dad. You can't be rocking around the Christmas tree, or, knowing you, you'll destroy something."
"No I won't." And he sat down, a bit too close to the tree for Faith's liking.
"At least move the damned chair, Dad."
"'kay." As the old man scooted the chair over, one of the rockers got tangled in the light wires.
Then all of the lights and the TV went out, propelling the two of them into near-darkness.
***** ***** *****
Later that night, as the six people were eating dessert, Sophia looked at Raymond. "What was that new road we took through Maryland? Rachelle asked me which way we came, but I couldn't recall.
"The new leg of 410. You want me to check the fuses later to make sure you got 'em in right, Faith?"
"No. I'd rather just light a match to the house myself, Dad. It's faster."
"I don't know the new part of 410," Rachelle continued, ignoring Faith's comment.
"Just opened. It goes over the river and through the woods. Shaved 2 hours off our drive time, though."
"The scenery was lovely," her mother added. "We saw at least 6 clipper ships in the harbor there."
"How would you know? You slept most of the time. I saw three ships, not six," Taneisha corrected crankily. Then she cuddled closer to the second Noel, Rudolph on her lap.
"I wanted to arrive fresh and cheerful this morning," her mother replied, smiling sweetly.
"Come on, Noel," Taneisha said, depositing Rudolph on the floor. "Let's go upstairs. I'd rather make your jingle bell rock than sit here with these old farts," she offered suggestively, her hand extended in invitation.
Faith watched as the second Noel's eyes popped open wider and she gulped convulsively. Not able to find her voice, the girl just got up when Taneisha held out her other hand too, and followed her out of the room.
"What about Cujo?" Faith yelled after them.
"Why don't you and Rachelle walk him, Faith?" her mother suggested. "Your father and I will wash the dishes."
"No you won't," Faith argued. "We won't have a dish left."
"We'll do them after we walk Rudy, Sophia," Rachelle said, squeezing Faith's hand.
Rachelle excused herself and picked up her coat and the dog's leash.
A few minutes later, the two women were walking down the sidewalk in the crisp, cold air. They walked in silence, stopping several times to let the dog do his business. Each time, Rachelle had to clean up after him. Finally, the fourth time they stopped for Rudolph, Faith said in disgust, "O holy night, is he crapping again? What the hell is wrong with him?"
"Nothing. He just has to go," Rachelle informed her.
"He can't go anymore, just so you know."
Both women turned around at the sound of the voice to see three young kids looking up at them imploringly. Faith recognized them as some kids from across the street.
"We three Kings are collecting money for the United Way's Christmas fund. Would you like to give?" the tallest boy asked sweetly.
"Curtis King," Faith yelled, "you are NOT collecting for United Way. They came around last week. Now get on home, boy!" She made like she was going to chase them, and they ran off into the darkness, laughing insanely.
"Those silly kids," Rachelle chuckled as they continued walking.
"Next year, I'm going away for Christmas."
Rachelle stopped and turned fully toward Faith. "But but there's no place like home for the holidays," Rachelle breathed, her eyes wide in mock anguish and her full lower lip trembling pathetically.
"Like hell there isn't," Faith insisted adamently.
"Okay, girl, gimme one place," Rachelle demanded, her hand on her hip.
"Guam," Faith answered immediately.
"Too hot." Rachelle reached out to take the other woman's hand and they started walking again.
Faith looked at her in confusion. "But yeesh, never mind. How 'bout Iceland?"
They said no more, just walked in companionable silence. Until-
"Killarney!" Faith yelled.
"Gesundheit," Rachelle answered absently.
"No, no. Killarney, Ireland. I'm going to have Christmas in Killarney next year."
"No you're not. You're going to stay right here with me," Rachelle contradicted placidly. "You would never have a holly, jolly Christmas without me, and I'm staying home."
"Well, those weirdos can't come next year. Let's just tell them we're going, but stay home," Faith suggested.
Ignoring that last comment, Rachelle turned on her heel and headed back home. "Let's go, I'm cold."
***** ***** *****
They walked into a silent, dark house. The only light on was the one over the sink, a glaring testimony to the chore left undone.
"I can't believe she didn't do them," Faith said incredulously, staring at the dirty dishes.
"You told her not to," Rachelle reminded her.
"I know, but she was supposed to do them anyway."
Rachelle rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
After finishing the dishes, Faith turned out the light and followed Rachelle up the stairs to their bedroom. When she clicked on the bedside lamp, she was greeted by a disgusting sight.
"Get off my pillow, you freakin' fleabag! And quit licking your balls!" Faith yelled as she jumped on the bed and whacked the dog with a spare pillow. Instead of being scared off, Rudolph jumped to his stubby little feet and growled menacingly at her. He lunged at her every time she swung the pillow at him.
"Get off! Rachelle, help me get Dumb-ass outta here!"
Rachelle, too busy laughing herself silly, was unable to run to her partner's rescue. "Ru Rudolph get out of here," she spluttered loudly, still laughing.
It was like a completely different dog was in their room, suddenly. Rudolph's body relaxed, his tail wagged in friendliness, and his ears perked back up. He jumped off the bed and trotted over to lick Rachelle's knee before leaving the room.
"That was great," Rachelle was finally able to say. She took a deep breath. "Whew, you do make me laugh, girl."
They got ready for bed and changed the sheets, and both women fell asleep fairly quickly. Sometime later, though, Faith's eyes popped open wide.
"Now what?" she muttered, positive she heard something. She listened closer, then rolled onto her back. "Oh. Just my stomach growling."
Faith decided she better feed it or it would never shut up enough to let her go back to sleep.
"Fine," she hissed, sliding out of bed quickly so she didn't disturb her sleeping partner. She padded downstairs, keeping an eye out for the Demon-dog, hoping he didn't attack her. "I hate that dog."
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she went into the kitchen and to the refrigerator. Taking out a Tupperware container of leftovers, Faith speared a thick piece of ham onto a paper plate. Then she took out the rest of the fixins for a sandwich and slapped one together. She shoved everything back into the fridge and, taking her snack and a glass of kool-aid, she headed into the living room.
Faith was just about to sit on the couch when something poked her in the butt.
"ACK!" she yelped, turning to look down at the couch. "What the hell?!" She set her plate and glass on the coffee table and switched on the lamp.
"Oh gross," she groaned, clamping a hand over her mouth to keep from vomiting.
"Wha's matter?" A sleepy Rachelle asked, cracking one eye open. When Faith didn't answer, she opened the other eye to look more fully at her. Seeing how shell-shocked her partner looked, Rachelle sat up, leaning toward the other woman.
"Faith? Honey? What's wrong?" she asked gently, stroking Faith's arm softly.
"I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus," she whispered brokenly.
"Oh. Your dad was dressed up again this year, huh?" Rachelle laid back down on her side, facing Faith.
"Jesus, I hope it was my dad and not Frank next door. Oh MAN!"
"Now, Faith. Your parents were just kissing. It's no big deal," Rachelle soothed, patting Faith's belly.
"But they were swapping TONGUE!" she wailed, jumping off the bed and hopping up and down. She shivered, the disgust rolling through her in waves.
"Oh please. Like your parents don't have sex? How do you think you got here, girl? The stork?"
"Rachelle! I'm going to puke, now cut it out!"
"Fine," Rachelle sighed in exasperation. "I'm going back to sleep," and she rolled away from Faith.
After several more minutes of shaking with the heebie-jeebies, Faith slid back under the covers and pulled the pillow over her head. "Gross."
***** ***** *****
Late the next morning, Faith made her way downstairs to the kitchen to find her partner flipping some flapjacks.
"Morning," Rachelle greeted her warmly, turning her head to capture Faith's full lips.
"Morning. Smells good. Where are the freaks?" Faith went to the fridge and poured herself a big glass of strawberry milk.
"They went for a walk with Rudy. I told them I had to stay here to make sure you had breakfast. Peanut butter pancakes, by the way." Rachelle set a plate full of steaming griddle cakes and Mrs. Butterworth in front of her partner.
"I hate her. She starts talking to me and I'm pitchin' her maple ass into the burn barrel," Faith commented as she squeezed the syrupy guts out of the little plastic lady.
"What's the story for today?"
"I don't know," Rachelle answered, shrugging her slim shoulders. "But it seems there's some talk."
Faith squinted at her suspiciously, stabbing another hunk of goo. "What kind of talk?"
"Apparently your grandmother called. She's had another fender-bender and wants them to come home."
Faith closed her eyes and bowed her head. "There is a God, and He hears prayers."
"Be nice," Rachelle said, chuckling merrily.
As the two women were finishing the dishes, most of their guests tromped through the back door.
"Where's Wenceslaus?" Faith asked.
Three pairs of dark eyes lifting to the heavens was her answer.
"Dad!" Faith yelled as she bolted out the door, booting the growling dog out of the way. "Leave the damned deer alone now!"
Faith ran up the driveway to stand on the front sidewalk. The first thing she noticed was the three Kings staring up at her roof.
"What are you kids looking at?" she asked them.
They pointed up, and Faith turned to see her father screwing bolts into the sides of the reindeer's neck, making him look an awful lot like Frankenstein.
"You're leaving today, right? I think those kids are scarred for life, thanks to him," Faith said as she marched into the house a few minutes later.
"Well, Mother Grace called and requested that we cut our stay short. I hope you won't be too terribly disappointed if we decide to leave, dear," her mother answered.
"Disappointed?" Faith snorted. "Like hell. Overjoyed, is more like it."
"We should exchange presents before lunch so we can get the van packed. We'll leave just before dinner."
"Rachelle, quick! Go tell it on the mountains! Looks like Santa Claus is coming to town really early." Faith clapped her hands in pleasure.
"You're not very nice, Faith," her sister said.
"And you're not very normal," Faith replied with a sweet smile.
Grabbing hold of her partner's hand and squeezing hard, Rachelle suggested they all go get the presents and gather in the living room.
Ten minutes later the six of them were assembled near the Christmas tree, presents of various sizes wrapped in colorful paper scattered around them.
"I'll start," her mother said brightly. She handed a long, thin box to Faith. It was wrapped in elegant silver and gold paper topped with a fluffy gold bow.
"A feather duster. Gee, Mom, it's just what I always wanted."
Faith dropped the box onto the floor and picked up one of five identical presents. She handed it to her sister.
"Blue paper," her mother commented aloud as she watched Taneisha unwrap the box. "How lovely."
"I thought so, yes." Faith grinned when she saw her sister's eyes narrow.
"Blue Velvet. How freaking creepy," her sister said. "You need help."
"Your ass needs help."
After the final exchanges were made, Faith ended up with not only a feather duster from her mother, but a tie from the second Noel, a framed picture of Rudolph wearing a sweater and a Santa hat from her sister, and blaze orange earmuffs from her father. She looked from her pile to everyone else's and grinned with sadistic pleasure. All of them, Rachelle included, had gotten a copy of Blue Velvet. "They were on sale at WaWa," she had explained cheerfully.
"Oh wait! I almost forgot." Faith reached under her right butt cheek and pulled out an envelope. "For my best bud, Rudy."
The dog paid no attention; he was too busy gnawing on her brand new 'imported-straight-from-France' feather duster.
"Here, Taneisha. For retard."
Her sister tore open the envelope and pulled out a gift certificate.
Faith wasnt able to respond because she was laughing too hard.
"Well, I guess we better get the van packed. If we leave now like Taneisha wants, we can put several hours under the tires," her mother said, ignoring the gift certificate.
"And maybe several idiot dogs named Rudolph."
The six of them quickly packed the mini-van. Once that was finished, fake kisses were exchanged, then they walked out to the vehicle. As her sister got into the van, Faith was sure she could hear her whispering something about "Christmas in my hometown being much better than this," to the second Noel.
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas, girl," she said loudly to Taneisha.
Her sister pointedly ignored her.
"Don't be. I'm not. Toodles. Come on, Rachelle. Help me get all this blue crap outta here."
It was much later that night and Faith and Rachelle were snuggled on the couch enjoying the silent night. The only light came from the Christmas tree and the rising moon outside. They looked out the window, watching as it came upon a midnight clear, big and round as you please.
"Why can't every day be like Christmas?" Rachelle asked, sighing contentedly.
Faith's jay dropped in dismay and shock. When she was finally able to speak she said "Because, with my family, the Christmas crime rate would skyrocket."
"Santas Beard" The Beach Boys
"Christmas in Killarney" Bing Crosby
"Why Cant Every Day be Like Christmas" Elvis Presley
"Marys Boy Child" Harry Bellafonte
"Holly, Jolly Christmas" Burl Ives
"Christmas in My Hometown" Charlie Pride
"Christmas in Dixie" Alabama
"Silver and Gold" Burl Ives
**The rest are either generic carols found in any hymn book or songs that multiple people have recorded.**
Away In A Manger
Ill Be Home For Christmas
Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth
Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Chiristmas
Joy To The World
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
Good King Wenceslaus
Frosty The Snowman
Carol Of The Bells
O Christmas Tree
What Child Is This
Holly And The Ivy
Rocking Round The Christmas Tree
I Saw Three Ships
O Holy Night
We Three Kings
Go Tell It On The Mountain
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
1-All I Want For Christmas Is You
3-Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire
4-Deck the Halls
5-Do You Hear What I Hear?
6-The First Noel
7-Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
8-Home For the Holidays
9-I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
10-It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
12-Jingle Bell Rock
13-Let It Snow
14-Little Drummer Boy
15-Over The River And Through The Woods
17-Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
18-Run Rudolph Run
19-Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
22-The Twelve Days of Christmas
23-Up On the Housetop