This story is by Joan Maccarrone and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Merry Christmas to me
The sign said, “Welcome,” but Rosie was sure it was just a prop. Appearances were everything. Waves of dread swept over her. It was Christmas Eve, a happy day for most, but not for her. Not since Todd, their one and only son, got married. She clung to her husband, Russ, and rang the door bell.
“What am I going to do?,” Rosie whispered to Russ. “She’s ripping the family apart.” She couldn’t bear the thought of loosing the love of Todd and her 4 year old grandson, Reed.
“Todd just doesn’t see that Aubrey has a problem.”
“Now come on Rosie, you’re a psychiatrist for God’s sake. You know how to handle this type of personality. Treat her like one of your patients.”
Todd appeared at the door and as soon as he opened it, Reed scampered out and hugged her legs. “Grandma, Grandpa!,” Reed said. Todd hugged both Rosie and Russ, squishing Reed between them.
“We missed you.” Todd said, picking up Reed.
Tears ran down Rosie’s face. “We missed you too.”
“Go get settled upstairs and then join us for some dinner,” Todd said. “Aubrey’s parents have already arrived.”
Oh joy, Rosie thought.
Up the stairs they went. Weaving between them Reed said, “What did you bring me? Can we play? Can we play make believe?” and again with, “What did you bring me?”
“Come on,” Rosie said. “Let’s see what I got.”
In the spare room, an air mattress squatted on the floor. Aubrey’s parents of course got the guest bedroom with an honest to God bed. All three of them plopped on the mattress. Rosie heard a groan. Was that coming from the mattress? Rosie dismissed the thought. Be nice, be happy.
She opened her suitcase. A Christmas stocking filled with gingerbread cookies, fruit leathers, sacks of nuts, chocolate Santas, and a couple of special rock candy lollipops came into view.
“Is that for me? What are those?,” Reed said pointing. “I’ve never seen a lollipop that looks like that before. Can I have it?”
“We’d better wait until tomorrow morning when we’re all gathered around the Christmas tree.”
“Ohhhhh…” Reed moaned.
He brightened immediately and whispered, “Did you bring the M&M’s?”
Rosie searched in her suitcase, and with a big grin pulled out the sack of chocolate.
“Wow!,” Reed said.
Foot steps sounded on the stairs and she quickly buried the stocking and M&M’s back into her suitcase.
Todd and Aubrey entered the room. “OK, where is it?” Todd asked, smirking.
“Where’s what?,” Rosie asked.
Glaring, Aubrey said, “You know what he means. Where’s the sack of M&M’s?”
“No pleasant hello, Aubrey? I don’t have any M&M’s.” Rosie shamelessly lied.
“You always have M&M’s,” Todd said.
Aubrey sauntered over to the open suitcase and picked up one of Rosie’s nightgowns as if she were picking up a dead mouse by the tail.
“Take your hands off my clothes and step away from the suitcase,” Rosie said. Aubrey dropped the nightgown and wiped her hands on her pants.
“It’s probably infested with bacteria anyhow. You do remember I possess a PHD in biology, don’t you?”
“Yes Aubrey, you tell me this every time we see you,” Rosie said.
“The rules are important,” Aubrey continued. “Let me refresh you. It’s not a hard concept even for you. No candy.”
Todd stepped between the two women and faced Rosie. “Come down stairs and say hi to Aubrey’s parents. We have dinner on the table.”
“Sure,” Rosie said.
Aubrey and Todd retreated downstairs.
“Phew, that was close,” Russ said.
“Let’s go,” Rosie said.
Reed grabbed the stocking and hid it under his sweater. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he ran for the Christmas Tree and hid it.
What was left of dinner, shriveled hamburgers and some burnt french fries, was all that remained. Aubrey’s parents were washing up in the kitchen and graced Rosie and Russ with a wave.
“Where’s the food?,” Reed asked, alarmed, as he picked up a french fry. Todd took him by the hand and led him into the kitchen. Aubrey stood guard over the food.
“I bet you’re hungry,” Aubrey said. Her lips compressed into a smirk. “Dig in.”
“Actually we ate at the airport,” Rosie said. “We remembered your fine hospitality.”
They all gathered together in the living room, to be social. Cartoons were on the TV.
Great entertainment, Rosie thought.
As if on cue, Rosie watched as they pulled out their phones and began to text…each other, laughing in unison. Rosie pulled her sweater tight feeling paranoid.
All of a sudden Reed bounded down the stairs and yelled, “There’s something wrong with Grandma and Grandpa’s bed!”
“What do you mean?” Todd asked, standing up.
“Come see,” Reed said.
Rosie and Russ went upstairs with Todd. The mattress laid there looking like the wrinkled jowls of a hound dog.
“You’ll have to get another one,” Todd said.
“You want us to go buy ourselves a bed?,” Russ asked.
“You’d better hurry up. We’re all tired and are going to turn in early,” Todd said.
Rosie just walked over to her coat and said, “Come on, Russ, let’s get out of here.”
A Walmart was close and with bed in hand, they headed back to the house. Russ called Todd telling him that they were a few blocks away. When they arrived, the house was dark.
“Uh oh,” Rosie said.
They climbed up the stairs and tried the door. It was locked.
“I just talked to him 10 minutes ago,” Russ said incredulously.
The key was under the mat and Russ unlocked the door. They crept upstairs and blew up the bed. As Rosie fell asleep, she thought, well merry Christmas to me.
The next morning everyone gathered around the Christmas tree and Reed retrieved the candy stocking. He pulled out the rock candy lollipop and held it up to Rosie.
“It’s Christmas, grandma. Can I have the lollipop now?”
Aubrey stood up and snatched the lollipop out of Reed’s hand
and turned to Rosie.
Here it comes, Rosie thought.
“No, I said no! What don’t you understand about not bringing candy into my house? I’ve told you over and over again. Candy is not allowed.”
Rosie boiled inside. “Have a heart, Aubrey.” Surely you can find some remnant of compassion inside you.”
Aubrey’s face turned beet red. “You are nothing! Do you understand? You are a doctor of pseudo-science. I have my own lab. What do you have? An office with a couch?,” She snickered.
That’s the last straw, Rosie thought. Quietly she stood, looking squarely at Todd. “Let me share an interesting article I read that pertains to this situation. It’s an article about Narcissists.”
Todd’s eyes opened wide.
“What?,” Aubrey screeched, clenched her hands into fists. “What are you talking about?”
Rosie continued, “Narcissists are people that are over-bearing, controlling, and filled with self-importance. They are only interested in themselves. They have little to no empathy for others and they go to great lengths to attain a status where they can feel superior. They wreck families.”
Turning to Aubrey she said, “I understand your pathology completely. You have a personality disorder that is so severe that you feel threatened by a little lollipop. I am sorry for your affliction and I hope one day, you can lower yourself to join the human race. Get help, Aubrey.”
Aubrey’s face contorted. She began to shake. She opened her mouth ready to explode, but nothing came out. “I don’t feel well,” she finally said. “I need to lay down.” She left the living room and fled to her bedroom with her parents in tow, scowling, ready to offer sympathy.
Reed looked at Rosie and asked, “So, does this mean I can have the lollipop?”
Rosie said, “Yes sweetie, you can have the lollipop.”
“I love you grandma,” Reed said, while putting his arms around her and hugging her tight. “I always will.” He ripped off the wrapper and popped the lollipop in his mouth.
Todd stood up slowly. “I’m sorry,” was all he said before he turned to go to his wife.
What have I done, Rosie thought.
The next morning Rosie and Russ said their goodbyes to Reed. Todd stood watching. His eyes were sad and Rosie’s heart hurt. He came to Rosie and put his arms around her and said, “I understand, Mama. I will get her help. I love you both and I always will.”
Rosie hugged him tight and, with tears all around, Rosie and Russ departed. Happily, Rosie smiled and thought, Merry Christmas to me.