Christmas wouldn’t be like one of those sappy Holiday movies. You know, the kind where the successful career woman visits her hometown and runs into her old flame who is now a hunka hunka of burning love who saved his grandfather’s pub, runs a no-kill cat shelter, builds artisan rocking chairs in his spare time, and goes to the old lady book/knitting club. Then the successful and stressed out career woman dumps her driven and unsuitable fiancé for the hometown guy and they live happily ever after in the mid-sized city full of charming old people and quirky neighbors.
Alexis hated her hometown, a place that only brought bad memories of holidays and every other day.
She also hated rocking chairs after that time Krampus came to visit her parents and smashed his tail while sitting in their artisan rocking chair. He ended up throwing her in his stinking bag with a bunch of other terrified children. What an asshole. It wasn’t even her fault, or the fault of her parents that he smashed his stupid ugly tail. She wished he’d smashed his tongue. It would have been great if he’d cut it in two big squirming pieces and it had gone up in a flash of sulfur scented smoke.
On the way out of the door she’d bit a hole through the bag. All of the children escaped. The others would forget their ordeal, but she never did. When school started back up after the Christmas break all of the awful children were back in school and ready to torment and bully Alexis.
To this day Alexis hated rocking chairs, photos of people with their tongues sticking out, and her hometown.
She saved those other kids. Of course, they didn’t know it was because she was a Vampire who used her fangs to tear the hole in the bag. She should have just saved herself.
Her parents couldn’t be blamed. They were old fashioned Vampires who dressed in black, and were quietly trying to fit in the best they could. At night they were fierce hunters, but during the daylight hours they were timid and complicate. They were clueless about what to do about their child who didn’t fit in. They wanted their child to go to school and make friends with others. Yeah, right, like that would ever happen.
On a good note, her parents never invited Krampus over again. Putting their only child into the bag with the bad children was unforgivable. Alexis always admired her mom and dad for that.
Fast forward to 2022. Alexis had graduated from college and graduate school. She owned an environmental policy consulting firm with her two best friends. Yes, she had friends. Sure, they thought she was weird, but they didn’t bully her. She still preferred black to other colors. Today she wore jeans with a black satin blouse and a black velvet jacket, with black boots. Over the last few years her dark brown hair had turned silver. Alexis was only twenty six but decided not to dye her hair, at least not now.
As she walked to her favorite coffee shop to meet her childhood friend Emma, Alexis thought it would be a nice surprise to have that holiday romance. Even a holiday fling would be fun. Even if it wasn’t all that fun, it might be a way to fill that feeling of existential dread the holidays always brought. A text announced that Emma was caught up with something at work, a spell gone wrong, or maybe an infestation of ghosts, or even an incantation for a Christmas romance. Emma was cryptic about it. It isn’t unusual for these things to happen when your best friend is a Witch.
At the coffee shop she got a sugar free peppermint latte and a stevia sweetened vegan lavender blueberry muffin. She’d splurge with real food and hope there wouldn’t be any issues later. Luckily, she had a book in her purse, a collection of beautifully told stories by Diana Garcia. The words transported Alexis to another time and place, where even sorrow had a certain beauty, and romance was sweet with a longing that made Alexis become lost in the pages for at least until the coffee was gone, and a second muffin had been tucked into her purse for later.
The businesses on the street were adorned with Christmas lights and other holiday decorations. It was odd, thought Alexis that she’d never been down the side street full of dress shops full of cute bright clothes she’d never dare to ware, a couple of inviting cafes, and galleries.
Stopping at the window of one gallery she was amazed at the beautiful handmade furniture on display. A small bell rang as she opened the door and walked into a space filled with chairs, tables, and other furnishings made of the most beautiful wood she’d ever seen. Most of it was Tiger Maple, but some was oak, and some looked like walnut, and rosewood. Paintings and artworks of every kind hung on the walls.
A man about her age came out from the back. He wore a black apron, black jeans, and a gray work shirt with rolled up sleeves. He brushed his almost shoulder length hair behind one of his ears. She noticed the silver hoops in his ears, and that he had a dimple when he smiled.
“Hi, my crew is out taking a break so it’s just me. Welcome,” he said.
Alexis smiled back. “Hi. Wow. Did you make this furniture?”
“Most of it. Is there something you’re looking for, or just dropping in for fun?”
“I don’t know. I guess I should be looking for something. My house is sort of sparse right now. There is some old ugly Victorian reproduction shit, I mean stuff, that was there when I moved in that I’m getting rid of. Put it up on Craigslist. It’s in good shape but not my style. Everything in here is beautiful.”
“Your style maybe?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
He held out his hand, “Jax, glad to meet you.”
She took his hand. It was cold but not from the winter air, or an unheated workshop.
“Alexis. My name is Alexis. Glad to meet you.”
” You’re a Vampire.”
“Just like you. Funny how we can all tell. Um, I saw a clock in the window I think my parents would love. Mind if I take a closer look?”
Jax took the clock from the window and carefully put it on the table. The unique piece of art and engineering was built like an old fashioned steeple clock but a modern take on the theme. The wood was almost golden with swirls of natural wood patterns. Alexis had no idea what made the patterns, but it was exceptionally cool.
“Listen to the chime,” said Jax. He pushed the minute hand ten minutes ahead. The chime sounded like a bat. “Every hour is a different animal.” He started to count on his fingers. “Bat, owl, hawk, cat, wolf, coyote, eagle, humming bird, squirrel, bobcat, fox, and raccoon. You can also set it for traditional clock chimes.”
Alexis ran her and over the top of the clock. It was beautiful. “I’ll take the clock. My parents will love it.” It wasn’t cheap but it was worth it, after all, they’d protected her from Krampus, and numerous other things over the years. As odd and out of touch her parents were they’d always been there for her.
“Would you like to see the workshop?” Jax asked. “I mean, if you’re not in a hurry to leave.”
The smell of wood and wax filled the air in the workshop. The place was immaculate. Then she saw them. At least six, maybe more, stunningly beautiful rocking chairs were under construction.
“I bet you don’t have problems with demons,” said Alexis. “Well, maybe not.”
Jax gave a puzzled smile. “Why is that?”
“They sit in the chairs, trying to get all cozy and comfortable, then rock over their own tails. Of course, then they get pissed off and try to take it out on you. They can’t ever take responsibility for their own actions. Fucking assholes.”
Jax walked over to a finished chair and put his hand on the back of it. “Would you like to try it out?”
“It is safe, and remarkably comfortable.”
Alexis looked at the chair then looked at Jax. “How long have you been a Vampire?”
“Since I was fifteen.”
“How old are you now?”
“Twenty six. Why?”
“I don’t know. You like like you’re around twenty five or twenty six, but you could be three hundred and eighty two for all I can tell.”
“I stopped aging last year. How long have you been a Vampire?”
“Forever. I was born this way. My parents are Vampires. We’re the same age.”
“Listen, Jax, I’ve seen a lot of weird shit. I’ve seen Demons and Fallen Angels, and Arc Angels, and Werewolves, and Ghosts, and soulless Vampires who aren’t like us, and people who are so evil that they’re our worst nightmares. Every time I’m around a rocking chair something bad happens. I was thrown into a bag by Krampus because he rocked over his own tail.”
“I can’t imagine.”
“When I was eleven I was invited to a Christmas party. All of the kids in my class were invited. It was at a big modern house with a lot of glass and an infinity pool. My mom went to the bakery and got some super special Christmas cookies but nobody ate them. There was nothing wrong. Then one of the kids told me I wasn’t wanted there. I was too weird. My parents were too weird. So I went into a corner of the living room, and sat alone in a chrome and white leather rocking chair. The woman, the mother of the kid who told me I wasn’t wanted, came into the room.
What a lovely red velvet dress, she said in a calm soothing voice, as she stood behind the chair and rocked it. I was too shy to say anything except thank you. Then she started to tell me that girls like me ended up being alone, or married to men with the personality of wall paper paste, or as whores. She asked me if I knew what a whore was, and I said nothing as she rocked the chair.
Then she started talking about how odd my parents are. She thunked me on the head, and said stay away from my son.
I tried to get out of the chair and she started to rock it faster and faster.
Then I yelled, BE CAREFUL OR YOU”LL RUN OVER YOUR OWN TAIL.
She knocked the chair over, and I fell to the floor. The other kids came into the room and started to laugh at me.”
“Alexa,” said Jax. “That is horrible.”
“I went back later, when I was twelve, on the bicycle I’d gotten for Christmas. I drained most of the blood out of her body. She went into a coma for three weeks.”
“Did she die?”
“No but she wishes she had.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“It’s just a chair.”
Jax was awfully cute, the chair was gorgeous.
“The last rocking chair I sat in was haunted by the ghostly spirit of a Vampire Hunter. It wouldn’t let me get out of it and…”
“Alexis, sit,” Jax said. “Nobody will hurt you.”
Alexis cautiously sat in the chair. As she slid back into the seat she felt as if it had been made for the contours of her body and nobody else. Her hands slid across the smooth arm rests that were just the right height. As she started to rock the chair she felt amazingly calm.
“This is nice Jax,”
“Thanks. I’ll deliver one if you want me to make you one. Just pick out the wood and give me a few months.”
“Let me think about it.”
“At least you’ve got the clock, one of my most unique pieces yet. What are your plans for Christmas?”
“My parents and I are having Christmas, Yule, whatever, this weekend, then they’re going to Europe.”
“Come spend Christmas with me. It will just be with some friends. We call it the Christmas Stragglers Club.”
“That is sweet of you but…”
“No buts. Bring your boyfriend, or husband if you want. Or girlfriend. Or dog.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend, or a dog. My best girlfriend is going to spend it with her boyfriend.” she said.
“Even better. Do you want to catch a movie tonight. Maybe take a night walk on the beach?”
“Only if you say you’ll build a chair for me. Maybe in a darker wood, like a cherry wood. Give me a price. Don’t skimp. I can afford it.”
They talked some more, then exchanged numbers. Then she handed him the muffin she had in her purse.
“This is good,” she told Jax. “It won’t make you sick. See you tonight.”
As Alexis walked to the main street towards where she had parked, she saw someone quickly run across the alley, then a flash of a forked tail. Instinctively her fangs came out. Then she smiled, knowing it couldn’t hurt her. Just like in the Christmas movies she’d be just fine.