Merry Christmas and happiest of holidays to all!
As a little treat, I wrote a quick Christmas scene from the Allie Beckstrom novels. This is literally hot off the keyboard, which means it is also typo-tastic. Please excuse my rough edges.
This scene happened somewhere between MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS (book 3) and MAGIC ON THE STORM (book 4).
I hope you enjoy!
MAGIC ON A HOLIDAY
copyright 2011 by Devon Monk
“Christmas tree and a gargoyle,” I said, watching Stone lift up on tip-toe to place a shiny red bulb on a branch. “Two great things that go great together. Who knew?”
Zay sat on the floor, my poorly packed and therefore highly tangled ornaments and garland spread out in front of him in a lumpy pile.
“They go great together,” he said, “after the gargoyle learns the meaning of ‘fragile’ and ‘don’t step on that,’ and ‘indoor trees are not for gargoyles to climb.’
“Aw, he didn’t know any better.” I held out my hand and Zay dropped a silver bulb in my palm. “And he didn’t break anything with sentimental value. I think.”
Even small things, little times like this, I was reminded that my memory had holes in it. For all I knew, that silver bulb in my hand was given to me by someone special. A friend, an old babysitter, my mother. Not that I’d ever know.
It glittered with promise, with mystery. The enigma of my past, Christmases lost.
A smooth gray finger stretched out to tap the bulb with the ‘tink’ of stone meeting glass. I looked down at Stone.
He was sitting, which we’d told him he had to do before we would give him ornaments, his ears perked up, his eyes wide with sugar-high excitement.
“You want this one, boy?”
He crooned pitifully and his wings quivered against his back.
“Sit. Hands to yourself.”
Stone pulled his hand away and curled his fingers around his toes.
I dangled the bulb from one finger. “Ready?”
He made a strangled burble.
“Fragile,” I said, holding it out to him.
Stone plucked it from my fingers very carefully, then held it against his chest as he waddled over, two-legged to the tree to hang it there.
“How goes the battle?’ I asked Zay.
He took a moment to assess his progress on the holiday snarl. “Am I allowed to use a hammer?”
“Then at this pace…I should be done by Christmas. Next year.”
“My hero. How about a hot buttered rum?”
“God, yes.” He stood and stretched. “You know you could get some new decorations. You do have a fortune to your name.”
“And miss out on your amazing untangling skills? Never.”
I headed to the kitchen then put the kettle on to heat.
There was a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it,” Zay said. “You expecting someone?”
“Merry merry, nice and naughty and all that,” Shame said, “why wasn’t I invited?”
“Because this is a quiet evening with just me and Allie,” Zay said.
I swung out of the kitchen. “Hey, Shame.”
Zay had wide enough shoulders he blocked the entire doorway. I couldn’t actually see Shame behind him.
“Allie, dear?” Shame said. “Want to tell your man to stand down?”
“Let him in, Zay. He can help with the ornaments.”
“Sure,” Shame said. “I’ve never met an ornament I didn’t like to fondle.”
“You, are a problem,” Zay said without any heat. “How did you know I was here?”
“Where else would you be?”
Zay moved aside and Shame strolled into the room. Black hair a little damp from the rain and eyes filled with too much mischief, Shame gave me a grin and held out a wrapped gift. It was about the size of a large cookie jar and really heavy.
“Got the rock something.”
“You brought a present for Stone?”
“It’s his first Christmas, right?” He shrugged and unzipped his black hoodie, revealing a black t-shirt beneath. The only stitch of color on him was the red scarf around his neck that looked hand-knitted. Probably a gift from his mother, Maeve.
“I might have brought both of you a gift too,” he said.
“Other than your sparkling, and uninvited, company?” Zay asked as he shut the door.
Shame gave him a quick grin. “I know, right? That alone is gift enough. See how generous I am? You can thank me with a drink.”
I rolled my eyes and set the package under the half-decorated tree. Stone didn’t seem to notice, too intent on staring at the pile of ornaments in the middle of the floor, his hands wrapped around his toes, his wings quivering with anticipation.
“Hot buttered rum or tap water?”
“I heard rum.” Shame walked into the living room. “I’ll take it cold and non-lubed if you’ve got it.”
“It’s Christmas eve,” I said. “You want rum, it comes with holiday trappings.” I got busy in the kitchen making up three mugs, and brought them all out into the living room.
“What’s wrong with your gargoyle?” Shame asked.
“He’s hypnotized by your ornaments. Are they evil?”
I handed him a cup. “No. They are not evil.”
“They aren’t,” I said. “Twinkle lights and tinsel–those are evil. The ornaments are just a little…misguided.”
“Says the person who refused to untangle the mess,” Zay said.
I handed him the other mug and settled down on the couch next to him. Shame wandered over to the tree in the corner near the window.
“And you decided to only decorate the left half your tree because?”
“Stone’s decorating it,” I said. “He has a very linear approach to the whole thing.”
Stone burbled. He was still staring at the ornaments as if by sheer will alone he could make one fly untangled from the mess and into his hands.
Shame sat crossed-legged in front of the tree and put his cup down.
“Hey, Stone.” He picked up the package. “C’mere buddy. Got a Christmas gift for you.”
Stone’s ears twitched, but he didn’t move.
Shame crinkled the paper. “Stoney. Come on, mate. You’re gonna love this.”
“Stone,” Zay said over the top of his mug, “No more ornaments.”
Stone turned his big, round, sad face on Zayvion.
I giggled. “Aw, you broke his little granite heart.”
“Hush,” he said, putting his arm over me. “Go to Shame, boy.”
Stone turned and trotted over to Shame. When he spotted the bright red and green lumpy package, that sad face turned into hyper-happy.
“This is for you. Hold on.” Shame drained his cup, set it down then rubbed his hands together. “So what you do is tear off the paper. Like so.” Shame tugged on a corner of the package. It made a satisfying little rip sound.
Stone cooed, his wings stretching down his back in barely contained excitement. He somehow stayed sitting with his fingers wrapped around his toes as he scooted closer to the package.
“You do it. Go on, mate. It’s not fragile.”
Stone took hold of the paper with two fingers and ripped a small section, looking for Shame’s approval.
“That’s the way. Show that paper who’s boss,” Shame said. “Rip it to shreds.”
Stone didn’t need any more encouragement. In a flash, the paper was torn into bits and scattered on the floor.
“It’s a gargoyle,” I said. “You bought my gargoyle a gargoyle.”
“What’s he going to do with a yard statue, Shame? He doesn’t even have a yard to put it in.”
“It’s not for his yard, it’s for him. A little buddy when he’s home alone.”
“Like a teddy bear?” Zay asked.
“Maybe.” Shame grinned.
The statue didn’t look a lot like Stone. It had big floppy ears and was built bulkier than the real deal, with a spiny demon tail wrapped around its feet. Paws front and back, wings in a graceful arc, it rested its chin on its back knees. The eyes were the same as Stone’s though: round and wide. They upped the cute factor by like a million.
With Stone’s hand on the floor, its head was level with his elbow.
Stone sniffed at it, then placed his palm on top of its head very gently as if checking for a fever.
Maybe that was the way gargoyles greeted each other.
I’d probably never know since Stone was a statue made alive by magic. Real gargoyles, living gargoyles didn’t exist as far as I knew.
So for that alone, Shame’s gift was…well, sweet.
Stone rumbled a soft cat-purr almost beneath my range of hearing that sounded like a bow drawing across a heavy string.
The statue remained a statue.
Stone got quiet, then picked up the statue like it didn’t weigh anything and carried it under his arm. He trotted one-hand, two legged to the side window next to the tree. He got busy with the curtains and in short order had the window cleared and opened.
A wash of cold wind fingered into the room.
“I think he likes it,” Shame said as Stone carefully placed the gargoyle on the window sill so it could see the dark city and Christmas lights.
Stone folded his arms over the sill and leaned his chin one them. He stared out at the city too, burbling every once in awhile. It sounded like he was carrying on a conversation with an imaginary friend.
“It’s freezing out there,” I said as a gust of wind rattled the ornaments on the tree.
“Want me to close it?” Zay asked.
“Naw.” I snuggled a little closer to him. “Let them stay there a little longer.”
“Who wants more rum?” Shame scooped up his mug and was on his feet and halfway to the kitchen by the time I could say, “Me.”
He returned almost as quickly, and eye-balled a jigger of rum into each of our mugs, then followed up with more hot water. Correction, hot water and buttered rum mix.
“Made up the rest of the mix,” he said, filling his own cup only about half way and topping it off with rum. He shook the kettle. “Still enough for another refill. I’ll be right back.”
“He’s full of energy,” I said.
“He’s happy,” Zay said.
“Us.” He motioned to the room, the tree, and Stone. “This.”
“Oh.” I took a sip. There was certainly more rum in the mix this time. The heat of it made me glad the window was open. I untucked myself from beneath Zay’s arm, and leaned forward to put my mug on the coffee table.
“Hold on.” Shame strolled into the living room. He wasn’t carrying the kettle this time. He was carrying a camera–an old fashion Polaroid that instantly prints photos.
“Merry Christmas, you lovebirds. A toast.”
I sat back and leaned into Zay. We both held up our cups in toast.
“Merry Christmas,” we said at the same time.
Shame snapped a picture, and the camera spit out a foggy photo which he shook a couple times then handed to me. “That’s your gift from me,” he said, “a memory caught on film. And,” he handed the camera to Zay, “that’s for you to make sure this sort of thing keeps happening, mate.”
“I’ve always wanted one of these,” Zay said. “You’re a good man, Shamus Flynn.” He took the camera and turned it in his hands.
Shame gulped more hot rum. “A seasonal affliction. Don’t let it get around, eh?”
“Let what get around, you hard-hearted bastard?”
“That’s the spirit.”
“I didn’t know we were doing gifts,” I said. “Shame, this is really thoughtful. I haven’t gotten–” I didn’t have a chance to finish that thought. A motion near the window caught my eye.
Not just any motion. Stone casually reached over to the statue on the sill. And shoved it out the window.
“No!” I said. “Stone, no! It’s fragile. Fragile.”
Stone let out the one and only horrified squeak I’d ever heard him make. He clambered through the window and launched himself out into the darkness after it.
I pushed off the couch. Zay was already on the way. Shame was nearly at the window, laughing.
“There can be only one!” Shame crowed.
I shoved in next to Zay. Stone was on the sidewalk in the thankfully deserted street, picking up pieces of the statue and crooning sadly.
“Come on up, Stone,” I said. “Bring the pieces. It’s okay. Come back in.”
Stone swept up the little broken gargoyle, then half-flew half-crawled his way up the side of the building.
He clung to the bricks outside the window and handed the pieces of the broken statue to me, gurgling and babbling, and making sad little mewling sounds.
“It’s okay,” I said. “We’ll fix it.”
I handed the pieces to Zay. “I’ll check the hall closet for duct tape.”
By the time I returned, Zay and Shame were sitting crossed-legged on the floor in front of the tree. They faced each other, the statue between them. Stone was hiding behind the tree, his head visible through the branches, watching.
Magic glowed softly between them.
I’d never seen Zay and Shame use magic together quite like this before. Usually magic is so fast, you can’t see it.
I reached over for the camera and snapped a picture.
The statue was looking a little pitiful, missing its head, a wing, and a foot. A chunk of concrete had broken off its back.
Zay and Shame whispered a few words, Shame first. Zay corrected him. Shame chuckled and shook his head, then started again. Got it right that time.
Magic responded to their words. It lifted the broken bits and fused them back together to make the statue whole.
In less than a minute, the statue was pretty much good as new, only the chunk on the back still missing.
Shame sat back a bit and rubbed his face. “Wasn’t Life magic easier last time we cast that spell?”
“Last time we cast that spell you were thirteen and we were trying to fix your mother’s vase you broke,” Zay said.
“We broke,” Shame said.
“Fine,” Zay said with a wicked grin.
I snapped another picture.
“We broke. You hadn’t chosen Death magic as your discipline then. You were more flexible.”
“And desperate,” Shame agreed. “That was her favorite vase.”
Stone crooned, a sort of pipe-organ hum.
They looked over at him and Shame laughed. “Aw, you don’t have to hide, mate. Everyone makes mistakes. I should have told you it was a non-flying variety of gargoyle.”
“It’s fixed,” Zay said, picking up the statue. “Here you go.”
Stone slunk out from behind the tree, a dusting of pine needles across his back. He picked up the little gargoyle, then sat down and carefully looked it over.
I snapped another picture.
When he noticed the break on the back, he brought the statue over to me.
I put the camera down. “It’s good as new, Stoney,” I said. “Good job. Fragile.”
He pointed at the chip on the back.
“Here,” I pulled off a little strip of duct tape and placed it over the chip. “There. All better.” I smiled and gave him back the statue, then rubbed between his ears. “Merry Christmas, you big lug.”
The flash of a picture being snapped filled the room.
Zay smiled and pulled the photo from the camera, placing it on the coffee table with all the other photos I’d taken.
Stone rubbed the duct tape with one finger. Satisfied, he trotted off to his favorite corner, where he curled up with the statue, and placed a pillow on his head, content.
“So,” Shame said, looking down at the tangle of ornaments. “Is this how we’ll be spending the evening?”
“Pretty much,” Zay said.
“Can we use a hammer?”
“No,” I said. “I mean, forget the ornaments. Here.” I ripped off a piece of duct tape and stuck it to the top of a photo–the one with Shame and Zay using magic to mend the statue.
“I don’t think I need any more of those old decorations.” I handed the photo to Shame.
He studied it. “Putting on a few pounds there, Jones.” Then he walked over to the tree and taped the photo to a branch. “Not bad. Give me that camera.”
Shame grabbed up the Polaroid and the rum and snapped a picture of himself.
Zayvion handed me a photo. “Let’s do this one next.”
It was the first picture Shame had snapped of Zay and me, snuggled up on the couch with our hot buttered rums. Our first Christmas together.
I attached the tape and then Zay and I both carried it over to the tree, and hung it near the top.
“Merry Christmas, Allie,” he said, turning to me.
“Merry Christmas, Zay,” I said.
Then he kissed me, and I kissed him back, making promises to myself that I’d never forget this, or us again.
The flash brightened the room.
“Move aside,” Shame tapped Zay on the shoulder.
Zay and I turned and took a couple steps back.
Shame propped the newest photo at the top of the Christmas tree. “Merry Christmas, you two. May you have a million more.”
We stood there, Zay and I with our arms around each other, Shame sipping the bottle of rum, and watched as the photo bloomed with colors and clarity until it revealed Zay and me, kissing by the tree.
A memory, and a Christmas, I knew I’d never forget.