I hate Christmas. To most people, even in our town, it is a time of fun, parties, family, friends, shopping and celebration. To me is is a darker and colder version of any other holidays. My parents don't realise that it is Christmas Day. Without the days on the calendar, which I score out daily, I wouldn't know, I don't think.

I sent Mum some beans on toast through the cat-flap, ate some myself, and left the rest out for Dad. They would be stone cold by the time he found them. Then I took an old black scarf, some holey black gloves (better to blend in), and, taking my key, let myself out. We always lock the door. Well, Mum does, she says because of the villagers, who can't be trusted, and Dad leaves the door unlocked, saying Mum is silly. I agree that the villagers can't be trusted, but I think Mum is silly too. On the other hand...well, I can't quite recall if the door was locked or not that fatal day... If only I could remember...

It was Christmas Day and I decided to take a walk. It was better than moping around the house all day, and I hadn't been sleeping lately. From past experience I knew that walking helped this especial trouble, so I took the opportunity to take a walk and find a good paint scene.

Armed with pencil, paper and a cheap disposable camera, in case I could not recall the image in my mind, which was unlikely, as I have been said to have an almost photographic memory for scenes, though sadly not for lesson books, I set out at around nine-ish.

Walking along the cobbles in the village made me wince. For some reason I couldn't remember, I hated cobbles with a lethal revulsion, and at the same time was drawn to them, as one is locked to a gory horror movie: can't bear to watch, and yet too hypnotised not to watch. When I was through the village the cobbles gave way to pathways, and I walked on in the fresh chilliness for half an hour or so up the hill. I didn't ponder at all on my Christmas situation. I was out to clear my mind so maybe I could get to sleep that night, and I focussed on enjoying the moment.

Enjoying the moment! Pah! Did I have the right to enjoy myself as the vow to avenge my sister's murder hung on me with all the hate and vengeance of the world? I didn't know. But enjoying the moment, that was my one thought. I needed a little joy, or I could not carry on. Deanna Macpherson had woken me up to the world, very slightly. I needed to get my thoughts out of my head. Just briefly. Out of my head where thoughts drifted and swirled like a lost cyclone that missed its mark and doesn't know where to go now.

I thought of Deanna with an inkling of hatred. I hadn't needed enjoyment before. Now pleasure seemed to be an obsession. It wasn't right or proper. I had things to do, revenge to rejoice in, and firstly, the said revenge to be planned and set. I didn't need enjoyment now. Or rather, I couldn't have it. I shouldn't. It seemed to be so far-off, forbidden, locked away from me. Or was I locked away from it? Hatred excludes one from pleasure. And right now, I was wanting hatred, wasn't I?

I had the sudden urge to punch my own nose hard just to relieve my feelings and confused thoughts. I had no pride, no standards. I hit myself hard, and some tourists on a muddy walk gave me a wide berth. I didn't care, though. I'd show them. I strode on, delighting in their fright and my own pain as my nose leaked red sticky stuff. Some of the tension in my soul relaxed.

At the top of the hill I saw what my heart had been hankering to see. Down below in the narrow valley was a traditional farmhouse, smoke pouring from the chimney, lights gleaming from the windows. A stream skipping down the hill rested tranquilly by the farm, turning a tiny waterwheel to one side, and beyond the whole simple scene the hills rolled and waved in true undulating style. The colours were dank and dull as befitted Christmas Day in England, but that just seemed homelike and comforting. The lights in the house made me feel debarred from merriment like some convict, but at the same time I felt more linked to Christmas than I had been in years. I rejoiced in the celebrations of the people inside the house, a healthy thought for unhealthy me.

In my mind's eye this was the place Vere had in mind when she painted her picture of the hill-cradled farmhouse. Link to my sister. I felt oddly calmed, despite the mental mention of Vere.

I settled down, my back slotting naturally into the curve of a damp tree trunk, and sketched in the background of my picture with a charcoal pencil.

The End

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