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Jake hated Christmas. As soon as the shops began to stock their gaudy decorations and playing disgustingly cheerful songs, he began to do his shopping online.

From October until January, he was a hermit. Working from home afforded him the opportunity to stay cooped up inside his pokey studio flat and not have to face the world until he was sure all remnants of the holiday were gone.

It hadn’t always been this way. Jake used to love the build up to Christmas— getting the decorations ready to put on the tree, buying and wrapping presents, and the food. For years he would get excited for those couple of days, but not anymore.

His parents worried about him, and his brother tried to get him to join in, but it was no use. For five years straight, he’d locked himself away and buried himself in his work as an IT support specialist. His living room slash bedroom had a desk set up in the corner, with his state of the art computer with three monitors connected to it. He would sit there for hours dealing with people panicking over the smallest problem, helping them.

His blood would freeze when they ended the call with a pleasant ‘Merry Christmas’, a sentiment he never returned. He merely said his farewells and moved onto the next caller and their problems.

During his breaks from work, Jake would sit on his sofa bed with a steaming cup of coffee and a well thumbed photo album. Even after five years, he struggled to look through every photograph without tears streaming down his face, but he still looked. Only ever on the last couple of days before Christmas. The rest of the year, the album sat in its place on his bookcase, gathering dust.

As soon as December twentieth rolled around, it was time. None of his friends or family knew about this habit, and they never would. This was for him, and him alone. He would begin his ritual by lighting her favourite candle. Christmas for her was all about cinnamon— a treat she called it, as she never lit candles at any other time of the year.

Once the air was filled with the festive scent, he would sink onto the sofa bed, and crack open the first page. Spanning three years, the photographs started out as goofy and fun before morphing into loving and, at times, sensual. The tears usually started once the weekly baby bump updates began towards the end of the album. That’s when the bad memories would begin to play in his mind like a video on a loop.

Then, there were the photographs of them in the hospital, tired smiling faces full of pride of what they had created together. A little bundle of joy, swaddled in blankets that hid any distinguishing feature, but Jake knew. He could remember every inch of the baby’s face.

At the end of the album, when the photographs ended, the newspaper articles began. Detailing the accident and the death of his fiancée and their daughter, his heart would break again, shattering just that bit more beyond repair. He would scour the words as if reading them for the first time.

Black ice, drunk, head on collision, died on impact, White Christmas.

Yes, Jake hated Christmas.

© MB Feeney 2015.

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