I can’t believe that it’s already Christmas Eve. Merry, Merry Christmas everyone!
When I think of Christmas Eve, one of the first things that comes to mind is A Christmas Carol. That tale is the inspiration for “A Mythmas Carol,” the second story in Myths and Mistletoe, which stars Gretchen, the Medusa girl most likely to hate, hate, hate the holidays.
After this particular Christmas Eve, she just might change her mind…
“I’m not coming,” I tell her.
“What do you mean you’re not coming?” she demands. “Greer is coming. Nick and Milo are coming. The Golden Maiden is coming.”
“Isn’t Greer Jewish?”
“Exactly. It’s a family dinner,” Grace pleads. “Even Cassandra is coming. You have to come.”
Grace should know by know that I have an inherent aversion to anyone telling me I have to do anything. Ursula was the only person I ever took orders from. She’s gone, so I don’t take them from anyone now.
And telling me that our biological mother is coming, the woman who gave us up for adoption at birth supposedly to keep us safe from a war we could never escape, isn’t exactly a selling point. Grace may be all about welcoming her into our ever-growing family, but my jury’s still out.
“Can’t,” I tell Grace. “Someone has to guard the door.”
“That’s a stupid excuse.”
That kind of admonition sounds more like Greer. No tolerance for sugar-coating is one of the only things I have in common with our overprivileged sister. It’s so out of character for Grace that I almost laugh. Almost.
“It’s not an excuse,” I insist, even though I know it is. “It’s the reality of our lives. We don’t get time off.”
“The city will be safe for a few hours, and you know it.”
I do know it. Even though there have been more monster visitors than ever before, they’re also mostly harmless. The last big disaster was when a campe dragon decided to visit the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. Instead of using the main entrance, she came through the ceiling. No casualties, but lots of broken glass.
Just because things have been quiet and relatively harmless since our battle with Nyx doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.
“Look, I’m not coming, okay,” I declare. “Just… have fun without me.”
There’s a long pause, and I can practically feel her disappointment through the phone. I hate making Grace feel bad. I get a not-so-secret thrill out of pushing Greer’s buttons, but Grace is the sweet, sensitive triplet. My protective instincts kick into overdrive with her. If I could make sure she never feels another ounce of pain for the rest of her life, I would. I would do almost anything for her.
But I won’t do this.
I won’t do Christmas.
“If you change your mind,” she says, her voice softer than before, “we’ll save you some stuffing.”
I almost tell her not to bother. But that would be like kicking her while she’s down, so I don’t say anything.
“Merry Christmas,” she says.
I shake off the uncomfortable feeling snaking down my spine.
“Thanks,” I tell her and then end the call.
I wish I could say Merry Christmas back, but in my experience, Christmas is anything but merry.
Before I ran away for the last time, the holidays meant extra-drunk foster parents, shouting matches that kept me hiding in my room with the door locked, and lonely nights spent wishing for parents who loved me enough to pretend Santa was real. A wish that never came true.
After I was on my own, the holidays meant hunting down the beasties who thought Christmas dinner meant finding a human to snack on followed by a microwave turkey dinner and, if she was feeling the holiday spirit, occasional praise from Ursula.
Now I don’t even have Ursula anymore. I highly doubt she’s going to come down from Mt. Olympus to wish me happy holidays. If she did come, it would be to remind me that we may have won the battle against Nyx, but her war isn’t over. She’ll be back, and I’ll be ready.
I can’t let my guard down, not for a minute. Greer nearly died last time. I won’t let there be a next time.
My sisters can have their perfect family Christmas. There aren’t any other descendants of Medusa waiting in line to take my place, so I’m going to do my job. For all of us.
Gretchen is about to have a verrrry interesting night. To read about what happens to her (and characters from the Oh. My. Gods., Forgive My Fins, and Darkly Fae worlds in other stories) grab your copy of Myths and Mistletoe!