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Lauren Beukes

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

A Twilight Christmas (Re-run)

Tis the season of re-runs of holiday favourites! Which is my excuse for re-posting the silly Christmas story I wrote for Paul Cornell‘s blog this time last year, with special thanks to Paul for giving me the incentive to write it and to Sarah Lotz for helping me get a handle on the Twilight tone.

A Twilight Christmas

‘Bella.’ The whisper pierced my sleep like a knife. I woke to his sweet breath lightly tickling my ear. Edward was leaning over me, his flawless marble skin pale as the moonlight streaming in the open window. The curtains stirred like moth’s wings in the icy breeze of a winter night.

‘Edward. What are you doing here?’ I sat up, rubbing the dried drool from my mouth self-consciously. ‘Didn’t we talk about this?’ This sneaking in to watch me sleep thing was getting kind of old. It was only romantic if you didn’t think about all the things you do when you’re asleep. Snore. Sleep-talk. Sleep-fart.

‘I couldn’t wait. I’m sorry, my love.’ He pressed a small package wrapped in gold into my palm, curling my fingers around it. ‘It’s 12:01. Christmas officially.’

‘What is it?’ I said, turning the present over. It was hard to make out in the dark. But it was vaguely jewellery box-shaped.

‘Open it,’ he pressed me. I knew I couldn’t say no to him. I never could. I was powerless against Edward Cullen’s steely will.

I reached out to turn on the light so I could see and knocked the lamp off the bedside table. It hit the floor and the bulb exploded, a thousand glinting shards sprinkling the carpet like razor-sharp confetti. ‘Dammit, I’m so clumsy!’ I swung my legs out of bed with every intention of fetching a dustpan from the kitchen.

‘Careful!’ Edward commanded. But it was too late. Unthinkingly, I’d already fallen out of bed and clumsily trodden on the carpet. The tiniest snag of glass embedded itself in the pad of my foot.

‘Ow. Crap.’ I lifted my foot into my lap to examine it. There was a bright bead of blood welling up around the shard, like a single red teardrop.

Edward’s eyes blazed. ‘Let me,’ he said. There was something in his voice.

‘Are you… sure?’ I said. There was a hitch in my chest. I’d been waiting for this moment since forever. Since I’d first gazed into those impenetrable amber eyes all those pages ago.

In answer, Edward pushed me back onto the bed and knelt between my legs. He lifted my bare foot to his mouth. He brushed my heel with his cold lips. I shivered. He gently made his way up, kissing the sensitive arch of my foot and then just when I thought he was going to press his mouth against my wound, he skipped over it, to lightly run his tongue across my toes. It felt like freezer burn. I writhed in an agony of anticipation. Then he leant back and with the greatest tenderness plucked out the sliver of glass.  A twist of blood ran down my skin. He cupped my foot, brought it back up to his mouth and… hesitated.

‘Do it. Edward. Please. My love. Do it!’ Butterflies danced and whirled and cavorted in my stomach. I tried to pull him back down to me, but he thrust my arm away, leaving bruises on my wrist.

‘See, I’ve already hurt you,’ he said, his eyes wounded, even though I was the one with the fingerprints on my arm here.

‘I don’t care!’ I begged. I practically shrieked. ‘Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.’

‘Bella. I -’ He turned his head away.

Deeply chagrined, I turned to him and implored those dark eyes. ‘Please. I want this. I want you.’

‘I can’t. You don’t know what you’re asking. I love you too much. It would be…wrong, Bella.’

‘To make love to me? To turn me? I know what you are. I know what I’m asking. Why can’t you trust me?’

‘You are my life. You are life itself. I cannot take that away from you.’

‘Ngggggh!’ I rolled over in disgust to face the wall. I willed the tears to come. They wouldn’t. I’d cried too many times over this already, felt the bitter sting of chagrin, over and over and over, till I almost made myself sick with it. It was always the same story.

‘Bella, you have to understand.’

‘Do I?’ I snapped, pulling the pillow over my face. I was still clutching the damn box in one hand.

And then the sky caved in.

Or that’s how it seemed at first. I sat up in shock. Edward leapt away from me, poised to fight. There were more crashing sounds from the roof. A clatter and a long scraping sound, as if of the world’s largest sword was being drawn from, like, the world’s largest scabbard.

‘It’s that gorgeous werewolf of yours again!’ Edward snarled. ‘This time I swear, nothing you can say will prevent me from tearing his lupine throat out.’

There was another thump and a bump. Now they seemed to be coming from inside the walls. I clung to Edward in terror. And then there was a terrible crash and the sound of something big and rustly and adorned with tiny bells being knocked over. The Christmas tree. Dad and I had hung the decorations this afternoon before he went on shift. Well, I hung the decorations and he just watched and drank a beer, until I tripped over a chair and he had to help in case I broke a leg on a bauble or something.

‘The living room!’ I yelped. Edward burst through my bedroom door and tore downstairs. I limped after him, still holding the gold box.

I emerged into the living room to find Edward still snarling, but with a confused, impenetrable glaze in his eyes, looking down at a large pudgy guy with a beard and a red suit, covered in a dusting of soot and sitting among the remains of our Christmas tree. There was a large bulging sack beside him.

Santa Claus stood up and dusted himself off. He seemed pissed off. ‘A Christmas tree right in front of the fireplace? Really? Do even you know what kind of fire hazard that is?’

‘We weren’t planning to light it…’ I said, defensively.

‘Who are you? What do you want in this house?’ Edward moved towards Santa, his teeth bared, his fists clenched at his sides. He was restraining himself for now, but only barely.

Santa shook out his hat and replaced it jauntily on his head. “Hey there, I’m Santa. Although you might also know me as Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost, Papá Noel or Baba Chaghaloo. And I’m here to see the little lady. So buzz off, Twinkles.’

‘“Twinkles?”’ Edward said, incredulously. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’

Santa sighed. ‘Didn’t we just go through this? Is your brain made of marble too?’

‘But you’re a myth,’ I muttered.

‘Exactly!’ Santa grinned, ‘And way I hear it, Bella Swan, you’re practically the village bicycle for mythical creatures – romantically at any rate. That’s why I’m here!’

‘What?’ I was dazed by the accusation. ‘Who said that? I’ve never even had sex.’

‘That’s what I hear too. Don’t worry, I can help you with that.’

It was too much for Edward. With a strangled noise he leapt at Santa, his lips pulled back to reveal his fangs, bright as steel. I screamed. The gold box dropped at my feet.

‘Wuh-oh!’ Santa said, raising his eyebrows theatrically. He ducked down, grabbing onto his sack as if he was planning to crawl in and hide.

It all happened in a blur. As Edward was on him, he yanked open the mouth of the sack and it swallowed Edward whole. Then he quickly closed it up and tied it shut with ribbon and sat on it. Underneath his bulk, the sack squirmed in fury.

‘Now, we can talk like civilised myths and humans. Hi. I’m Santa.’

‘You already said.’

‘Oh, that’s right. And you’re Bella. And I have an interesting proposition for you.’

‘Won’t he suffocate in there?’ I said, indicating the writhing sack.

‘Who, Twink? Nah, he doesn’t breathe, remember? He might tear up some toys, but you know, the elves can always make more X-boxes and Bratz dolls.’

‘Oh,’ I said, numbly.

‘So you wanna hear it?’

‘Do I have a choice?’

‘You always have a choice. Don’t worry. There are no unreasonable expectations. It’s just a date.’

‘A date?’ I said, amazed. ‘But you’re really, really old.’ I was close to tears.

‘Hey now.’ Santa snorted. ‘I’ve only got a couple of centuries on Gary Glitter here.’ He bounced a little on the sack for emphasis before realisation sunk in. ‘Oh wait, you thought…’ He started to laugh. The laugh turned into a guffaw, which turned into a fit of chortling. Tears sprang from his eyes. He fell back on the sack and kicked his red boots in the air in merriment, never mind that he was squishing Edward in the process.

I got mad. ‘Enough with the LMAO, fat man,’ I snapped.

Santa sat up, wiping his eyes. ‘Ah, see, there’s the spunk. Knew you had it in there somewhere mopey girl.’ His ruddy cheeks were bright red with the effort of laughing. ‘I’m sorry. You thought I wanted to get with you? Oh, that’s just priceless.’

‘That’s kind of what you were implying,’ I said, coldly.

‘Oh no, no, no. I’m a happily married man. Mrs Claus and I have been together since, let me think, well, at least since Coca-Cola. And she’s a wonderful woman. Marvellous woman. And the things she can do – well never mind. No, little emo girl, you’ve got the wrong idea. I’m not here on my own behalf, I’m here on someone else’s.’

Who?’ I couldn’t imagine. The elves? Rudolph?

‘Look. I know you’re a young woman of, shall we say, kinky tastes?’

I gave him my best death stare. It had improved since I started dating an actual dead guy.

‘There’s no reason to be embarrassed. We all have our peccadilloes. Believe me, I know, I’ve seen those grown-ups’ Christmas presents wish lists and let me tell you, they’re more naughty than nice.’

I kept up the death stare.

‘I’ll cut to the chase then. He’s just your type. Tall, dark and scary.’

‘Who. Is. It?’ I said, enunciating the words very carefully.

‘You’re right, you’re right. I’ve been terribly rude.’ Santa looked resigned. But then he rallied, stood up off the sack that was now ominously unmoving and gestured dramatically towards the fireplace like a TV gameshow showgirl. ‘May I present, without further ado… Krampus!’

Nothing happened for a long moment. And then a demon peeled out of shadows of the fireplace. He was seven foot tall with broad shoulders and rippling muscles. His carved Adonis-like abs slid down into coils of fur that obscured his manly groin. His cloven hooves went clip clop on the wooden floorboards with a terrible certainty. Thick, dark ram’s horns curled round his face. Steam flared from his nostrils as he raised his goat’s head the better to take me in. I could feel his weird sideways slit eyes traversing my body.

I gasped and took an involuntary step back. ‘The devil?!’ My heart clenched in fear. And then anger surged through me. ‘You want me to go on a date with the devil? Are you out of your frigging mind?’

Krampus blinked. The majestic frame slumped slightly. It made him look strangely… vulnerable, and yet, at the same time, not. I felt something flutter in my belly. No, lower than that.

‘Heeeey,’ Santa said. ‘Go easy on a guy. Krampus isn’t the devil. He’s a festive season demon. Austrian by birth. He accompanies me on my rounds there. I reward the little children who have been nice. He punishes the naughty ones by beating them with sticks or sticking them in his sack.’

‘Never heard of him,’ I snapped.

Krampus deflated even more. ‘Really?’ he said, in an elegant Austrain accent. ‘You have never heard of me? With my rusty chains and my bells and my birch rod? Scaring the women and children?’

‘Nope.’

‘I blame the commercialisation of Christmas,’ he sighed. There was something strangely alluring about his melancholy.

‘Anyway, he’s very good at his job,’ Santa cut in. ‘And the rest of the year, he’s a demon of leisure!’

‘I like to travel,’ Krampus said, perking up. ‘To intriguing places. Wandering the ancient streets of Stone Town in Zanzibar. Running the Iditarod in Alaska under the northern lights. Cove-hopping in Croatia in my private yacht.’

Santa chipped in helpfully, ‘Also, he’s into light S&M.’

Krampus covered his eyes and shook his head, embarrassed.

‘Whaaaat?’ Santa said, nonplussed. ‘A little safe consensual whipping between consenting adults is a groovy lifestyle choice.’

‘What makes you think I’m into S&M?’ I said, coldly.

‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ Santa said, hastily, shifting his gaze away from the bruises on my wrist where Edward had gripped me.

I folded my arms. Krampus was, admittedly, very attractive and Adonis-like for a goat-faced demon. But I was still unconvinced.

‘Give me three reasons I would want to go on a date with this guy.’

‘Well –’ Santa started in.  ‘First off, he’s not gay.’

‘I want to hear them from him.’ I pointed at Krampus.

‘That is fair,’ Krampus said. He stepped forward, looking very serious. Or maybe that was just his look. It’s hard to have emotional range when you’re a goat. ‘Well, first of all, I can still sparkle for you.’ He snatched up a strand of silver tinsel from the crushed tree and modelled it round his shoulders like a feather boa. Hmmm. A demon with a sense of humour. That was more than Edward had. And I had to admit, that tinsel was, well, sparklier, than Edward’s skin.

‘Go on.’ I said, warily.

‘And I know you’re used to travelling in style in a Volvo. But I can offer you a flying sleigh that can circumnavigate the entire globe in the time it would take you to drive through Forks. Have you ever seen the lights of Manhattan from the sky?’

‘Not to mention your private yacht,’ Santa interrupted.

‘I usually save that for the second date,’ he grinned, raffishly.

‘And?’ I said, although I had to admit to myself I was beginning to get interested. I could barely tear my eyes away from all that sparkly tinsel, the way it highlighted his killer abs.

Krampus looked down, coyly and then tilted his head so he was looking up at me through his very long goaty eyelashes. The butterflies were back, and I kind of liked how they felt. ‘And lastly, I will totally, absolutely have sex with you.’

Santa’s sack burst to life, writhing and twisting in outrage, like there was a hurricane inside instead of an about-to-be cuckolded vampire. There were muted screams and curses coming from within. Krampus and Santa looked down at the sack in alarm. It was bucking across the floor. There were tearing sounds. A pale, perfectly sculpted finger wiggled through a rip in the fabric, started wrenching its way upwards, like a ladder in a stocking, widening the tear.

I felt more conviction than I ever had in all my eighteen years. I stepped forward and picked up the heavy ceramic urn containing the remains of grandpa from the mantelpiece above the fireplace. I raised it above my head. ‘Just so clumsy, I said and then brought the urn smashing down on the sack, around about where I estimated Edward’s smug face would be.

The sack abruptly stopped moving. Krampus and Santa looked at me in astonishment.

‘Let me just fetch my purse,’ I said, smiling prettily. As I ascended the stairs, I stepped on the little gold box, crushing it beneath my heel.

(* Pic from Unreality magazine piece on people dressed as the “anti-santa” via BoingBoing)

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    December 23rd, 2010 @22:58 #
     
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    Enjoyed it even more this time round. Note-perfect.

    Bottom

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