In honor of Faith’s flash fiction challenge for the 12DoC blog party… I obliged. (Check out her blog for today’s post!)
Say hello to SILENT NIGHT, an Infidel Books prequel Christmas story… featuring a little Nate Savage. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Anyway, here’s a flash fiction Infidel Books story that makes me wanna cry. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, PLEASE comment and say so. Because, y’know, authors need to know that sorta thing. Because we love our readers. And we love pain.
Merry Christmas, enjoy, loves!
Angela R. Watts
Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.
Dedicated to Faith Potts, a dear friend and a fantastic author.
Nate watched the snowflakes dance from the black sky and hit the windowpane, sticking slowly but surely. He beamed, leaning even closer, breath fogging on the glass.
“Santa Clause can’t put gifts under your tree if you’re still awake.”
Nate glanced up sheepishly. “It’s not bedtime yet, Uncle Hunter… And anyway, Dad said Santa wasn’t real.”
Uncle Hunter smirked and came over, studying the falling snow. “Well, your dad doesn’t know everything.”
“You believe in Santa?” Nate frowned. Uncle Hunter was big, strong, tough. Why would he believe in something silly?
Uncle Hunter ruffled Nate’s hair. “Sure I do.”
Nate rolled his eyes a little but a loud knock on the front door caused his troubles to vanish. “Robbie!” He ran to the door.
Uncle Hunter laughed. “Hold up, Nate.” He checked out the window and then opened the door, smiling. “Hey, Robert. Come inside before you freeze.”
Robert stepped inside, hair and jacket covered in snow. He flashed a grin at Nate, arms full of gift-wrapped presents. “Merry Christmas, kid. Where’s your dad?”
“He’ll be back tomorrow,” Uncle Hunter said quietly.
Nate swallowed the lump in his throat but tugged at Robert’s arm. “What’s in the boxes?”
“You’ll have to wait for tomorrow morning to find out,” he said casually. “Where’s the tree?”
Uncle Hunter led them into the tiny living room. Dad didn’t celebrate Christma, so it’d been up to Uncle Hunter to find a small, raggedy tree from the backyard. It was smaller than Nate but covered in colored lights that glowed in the dimly lit living room. Uncle Hunter had gifted Nate a few ornaments, too, some funny looking ones and some more delicate. Those pretty ones must’ve been important because Uncle Hunter had gotten all quiet when he put them on the scrawny tree. Nate hadn’t asked about them, though.
He didn’t want to make Uncle Hunter sad. He didn’t want to be sad. Or alone. Not on Christmas. Uncle Hunter said Christmas was a time for hope, for happiness, for family.
Not the time to be sad.
Robert put the gifts under the little tree, smiling. There were a few sloppily wrapped gifts sitting beneath it already–two gifts to Nate from his uncle, and two gifts to Uncle Hunter from Nate. There were three for Dad, too, but he wouldn’t be home in time to open them.
Still, Nate couldn’t wait for morning. He wanted to tear into the gifts to see what he’d gotten. Uncle Hunter always got the best presents.
“What’d you get me, Rob?” Nate smirked. “You can tell me, it’s almost Christmas!”
“Not yet.” Robert patted his shoulder gently. “Wait, like, 10 more hours.”
“8.” Uncle Hunter sighed. “Nate refuses to sleep in.”
Robert groaned. “I’m a growing guy, Nate, ya gotta let me sleep.”
Nate punched him in the arm and Robert laughed. “Fine. Bright and bushy-tailed. Got it.” He stepped back, admiring the ugly tree. “You outdid yourself, Hunter.”
Hunter smirked. “It’s no eight-feet specimen but it’ll be bigger next year.”
Nate’s chest swelled with excitement. Next year. Maybe Nate would have a bigger Christmas then–a bigger tree and more presents. But mostly, he wanted Dad to be home. He wanted Dad to see how happy Robert and Uncle Hunter looked. He wanted Dad to see the presents, including the gifts with his name on them, too.
Suddenly Nate didn’t feel so happy inside. He gulped and hugged Uncle Hunter gently. “I’m going to bed.” Before they could reply, he scurried down the creaky hallway into his small bedroom. It smelled like mold and he fought tears as he climbed into bed.
It hadn’t been like he’d asked for much.
He’d told Santa what he had wanted. He wanted dad to be home and he wanted a new house. That was all. Dad had money. He could find a nice place, with a bigger bedroom with room for toys, and a garage so Nate and Simon could make things.
Dad had enough money he didn’t have to be gone all the time. Nate had heard Uncle Hunter say so once. He wasn’t supposed to eavesdrop, but he’d heard him say that.
So why did Dad leave? Why wasn’t he home for Christmas?
Nate must’ve done something bad. He hadn’t cleaned his toys in the yard a few days ago. He had broken a plate one night. He had cried when Dad left last time, too. He was getting too old for being stupid. But he’d still been bad. Was that why Dad didn’t like being home?
He doesn’t like me. He hates me.
Maybe Uncle Hunter was wrong. Christmas wasn’t happy. Not for bad kids. Not for Nate.
A soft knock on the door made Nate jerk. “Go away!”
“Can I come in?” Robert eased the door open, slipping inside.
“You already are.”
“Can we talk?”
“You’re upset. How come?” Robert sat on the edge of the bed.
“My daddy isn’t home.” Nate sat up, gulping down the lump in his throat. “And that’s my fault.”
“Your fault?” Robert frowned. “How so, bud?”
“Bad?” he repeated. “How are you bad?”
Nate told him all the reasons but Robert chuckled, pulling Nate into a gentle hug. “You’re not bad, Nate.”
“You don’t know that.” Nate fought tears. He wiped at his eyes angrily. I’m too big to cry.
“I do.” Robert nodded. “You’re a good kid. You’re like Hunter. And it’s OK to be sad that your dad’s not here. My dad isn’t around, either. But we’re tough, right? We’ll do fine.”
“But I wanted him to be here. I made him a present and everything.” Nate rubbed his eyes harder. Robert grabbed his hands.
“I know. I know, kid. It’s fine to be angry. But we gotta focus on the good. The happy stuff is there. Right? You’ve got Hunter, and me, and Simon. You go over to Si and his dad’s in the morning, right?”
Nate nodded weakly. Uncle Jordan always did better Christmases than Uncle Hunter, but Nate still loved his uncle. Uncle Jordan had a bigger tree, more presents, and a nice house. Simon was always happy and loved.
Why wasn’t Nate?
Robert smoothed his hair. “Kid, you’re gonna be disappointed a lot. But your Dad is trying. Believe me. Just keep listening to your uncle and Si’s dad and push on.” He offered a fist and Nate bumped it tiredly.
“I don’t feel happy. I’m supposed to be happy. Santa will be mad at me and I don’t need Santa and Dad mad at me.” Nate insisted weakly.
“Ah, Santa doesn’t care about that. And more important than that, Jesus knows when you’re sad.” Robert smiled softly. “You know about Jesus, right?”
“Yeah, Dad hates him.” Nate frowned, roughing his hair up again.
“Uncle Hunter doesn’t, right? He tells you about God?”
“He knows you’re sad and He’s there to help.” He picked up the small Bible on Nate’s bedside table. “You can read, right?”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Well, read this, whenever you feel alone, or feel bad.” He showed him places where Uncle Hunter had marked with a red pen. “See these? These are what God thinks about you. He loves you.”
“But he isn’t my dad.” Nate choked. “M-my dad is supposed to love me.”
Robert pulled him close. “He does, Nate. He does. He doesn’t do it right but deep down inside, he’s trying to protect you.”
“Because the world is going to hell?” Nate repeated the words he’d heard his dad say every day.
“Yeah, kid. That. But it’ll be all right. You’re strong. You’ve got us. Me. Hunter. Simon and his dad. Till the very end.” Richard smiled and leaned back beside Nate, yawning. “And above all, we’ve got God, and He knows what it feels like to be rejected, too.”
Nate snuggled close, sighing. “I’m too old for kid stories.”
“I know. Do you wanna hear a scary one? It ends well, though. Ends real good.”
Nate nodded, and Robert started the story about Jesus. Nate listened silently. He wouldn’t admit it, but the story did help. Maybe it wasn’t real. He hoped it was. He hoped Jesus loved him. Maybe if Jesus loved him, his dad would, too. Maybe Nate could do better and make Dad happy, too, if God helped him. From the story Robert told, Jesus was a good helper.