The phone rings and the woman swirls her glass, watches wine the color of ruby coat the sides of the crystal. Wine is the only red she allows in her apartment; everything else is black: carpets, sofa, even the tall sculptures she makes, stark and granite-colored. Red, of course, and green, and even white – these are the soft, bright colors of Christmas. The colors of her charmed childhood in Who-ville.
She ignores the phone, lets it ring. She has no idea how they continue to find her – she’s unlisted, hidden away, anonymous in the City - and of course she hasn’t used the name Cindy Lou in probably thirty years. Maybe more. She looks at the wine, at her black, blank walls. Could it be time for a change? Never red, of course – never red. But maybe a white thrown rug, a grey comforter. Maybe even some accent pillows in yellow. Something to liven the place a little. It was her therapist who suggested the black; it made sense given all of her sensory triggers. So many of them tied to colors. Of course, they’re tied to other things, too: sleigh bells, Christmas carols, the smell of baking cookies and hot cocoa. The fresh, fucking wretched smell of pine. And of course, above all, the smell of burning wood, the acrid smoke of the fireplace. She thinks she could stand the rest now, but a fireplace – even the thought leaves her chilled and unsteady.
It was a neat trick, tying their story up into a happy ending. The studio paid the Who-villians off, bought their silence and their shut mouths. Hers, too. All the children. But of course, they weren’t the ones who had to live with it. They weren’t the ones who had to watch in terror as a green monster in a baggy Santa suit stole the town’s Christmas. They weren’t the ones who stood there, mute and barely six years old, as the creature hauled their trees, their presents, their decorations – all that red and green and twinkling beauty disappearing over the silent white snow. No, their silence was cheap, easy. They weren’t left with a lifetime of guilt, and a boatload of bills from the shrink. They weren’t left with a shrunken life in a darkened studio apartment.
The phone rings, and the woman slams down her glass. Wine sloshes and spills on the ebony carpet, where of course, it disappears completely. She tips the entire glass into the rug, and watches as the spreading stain is caught and absorbed, made nothing. Like it never was. Then she picks up the phone, and tells the person on the other end, yes, yes I do know what really happened. Yes, I have a story to tell. I do.
Amber Sparks is the author of the short story collection May We Shed These Human Bodies, and co-author (with Robert Kloss and illustrator Matt Kish) of the hybrid novella The Desert Places. Her second short story collection, The Unfinished World and Other Stories, will be published by Liveright in 2016. You can follow her on Twitter @ambernoelle, or at ambernoellesparks.com.
[ed. note: over the next two weeks, we’ll be catching up with characters from beloved Christmas movies, learning how their lives have turned out after the cameras stopped rolling. We’ve invited some of our favorite writers to share these stories.]