I woke up to my name being called over and over again. My eyes fluttering open, I looked up into concerned faces. No. This wasn’t still happening. Why hadn’t I waken up yet? I quickly sat up, determined.
“This isn’t real,” I mumbled to myself.
“Do you need me to call a doctor, honey?” Amelia asked, placing the back of her hand against my forehead. She glanced over at Dan. “No fever but I think we should call a doctor.”
“Maybe she hit her head or something.”
Yup, this was definitely a dream. There was no way I had been transported like Alice in Wonderland where my parents were Amelia and Dan, and not Mom with her blue contacts and Dad with his stern, you better listen to me or else, persona. This was some weird alternate version of my life where Bryn Reamer was not my brother and I had mini-mes waking up next to me every Christmas morning in matching red Christmas themed pajamas.
I looked at faces I’d only known for a few months, yet were the closest people to me in the world, at least, biologically close. Since I wasn’t getting out of this dream by force, I guess that meant I had to play along.
But no Reed and family? No fun at all.
“I’m fine … Mom.” Seriously, that was super strange. “Must have been some bad juice or something.”
Amelia raised a brow. “Are you sure you should go to the party tonight? You might be pushing it.”
Two parties in a row?
Marie gave a toothy grin. “Yeah, that Christmas party at the outdoor rink your weirdo boyfriend invited you to.”
“Weirdo ex-boyfriend,” supplied Annabella.
“Thank god,” muttered Dan as he gave Amelia a pointed look.
“Oh yeah,” I said, pretending like I knew who the hell they were talking about. As long as it wasn’t Connor, I was cool.
“Enough party talk for now.” I stood, getting out of bed. “And I’m really fine—I promise!”
My family looked at me skeptically.
“Well, come on,” I urged, heading toward the door. “It’s officially Christmas! Let’s open up these presents.” I wasn’t particularly being my normal self but it was a dream so there were no rules.
The entire gang followed me down the staircase. Stepping into the foyer, I was unsure where to go.
Marie noticed my hesitation and grabbed my arm, pulling me to the left where it opened to a living room. At the end near the fireplace was this huge Christmas tree decorated in blue and silver ornaments. It was rather breathtaking and as I walked closer, my eyes took in the beauty of the sparkle and shine that seemed to be bouncing off the tree.
I turned around to say something then burst out laughing when I finally noticed that all of us were wearing matching reindeer print pajamas in red.
I shook my head, trying to muffle my laughs. “Whose idea was it for our Christmas getup, anyways?”
“Um … yours,” said Annabella.
I immediately got myself together. “Right.”
Settling around the Christmas tree, we started exchanging gifts. I watched the kiddos get excited by the latest tech gadget or outfit. I stared across at Amelia and Dan staring lovingly at each other. I’d gag if it were anyone else—hell, I’d gag if it were Mom and Dad—but to see them this way opened me up to what I had missed all these years apart from them.
But it was bittersweet because being with the Callaghans like this made me really miss my family.
It made me miss Reed.
I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I immediately excused myself and headed to the bathroom.
I almost screamed again when I saw myself in the mirror.
“Holy crap on everything that’s holy.”
My hair looked like it was dipped in fucking French vanilla ice cream.
I was blonde.
“What the hell,” I stated, pulling at a curly tendril. This Jade liked to experiment with hair. I started inspecting my body further. “What else is different in this world, Reamer?”
I had three tattoos of the most random of things in the most random of places. A ladybug on my left shoulder, a treble clef on the inside of my right wrist, and a sprinkle of stars across my back.
And let’s not forget the most obvious thing. I wasn’t preggers. My surprise baby was a surprise no more. Apparently in this world, I knew what a freaking condom was and remembered how to use one.
I didn’t know what to think about this. I had gotten used to being pregnant. Sill had a mini meltdown session on the daily about giving birth and being in charge of a living tiny person that wasn’t a pet, but yeah, I had gotten used to it. And not being pregnant now was a complete mind fuck and I didn’t know how to feel. I mean, I want this baby, and I can’t wait to meet our baby. Reed—
I stared at my reflection in the mirror before closing my eyes and sighed.
In this world, I didn’t even know who or where he was.
I came out of the bathroom and bypassed the family, rushing back up the stairs to what apparently was my bedroom.
“Bingo,” I said, eyes immediately landing on a cell phone on the nightstand next to the bed. I pulled the charger from the phone and stared down at the screen momentarily. I wondered if Reed would have the same phone number in this world. But I’d call him and then what? It wasn’t like he knew who I was. I was a stranger to him.
Would he even be the same Reed that I grew up with?
But the urge to hear his voice was something fierce so I punched the familiar numbers into the cell that were no longer programmed as a contact.
I brought my cell up to my ear, listening to the ringing that seemed to go on and on forever. My chest felt full when his familiar voice answered.
“Reed,” I breathed.
“—you’ve reached Donahue. Not here to get your message but leave the details right after the beep and I’ll be sure to get back to you.”
I was frozen in my spot and the only thing that brought me back was the beep signaling for me to record a message.
“I’m sorry,” I said quickly. “Wrong number.”
I ended the call immediately. “What is wrong with you? You freak out over a voice message—a voice message! Get it together, Jade.”
It’s not like this was real or anything.
I needed some fresh air, stat.
Jogging down the stairs, I grabbed a coat thrown over the staircase, shouting back into the house.
“Going for a walk!”
Slamming the door shut before anyone could reply, I made my way to the sidewalk, not even caring that I probably looked like a homeless person wearing pajamas outdoors and what looked like Dan’s winter coat. I was cold, my breath making its presence known in the cool air. I hunched my shoulders and tucked my hands into the warmth of the jacket pockets, cursing the fact that I didn’t look for a hat or scarf or something.
I paused by a park only to find a girl sitting on the bench. She was blonde and bundled up and I wondered why she sat so still by herself on Christmas day. I walked over closer, then closer still until I saw her face. Then did my best to not break down right then and there.
It was Nina.
I opened my mouth but no words came out. I didn’t know if this was the worse dream or best dream of my life.
Jade, keep it together.
It was just your best friend, your dead best friend, right in front of you.
“Hey,” I finally said softly.
“Hey there,” Nina said, smiling back. She tilted her head to the side, eyes narrowing slightly. “Do I know you?”
I shook my head. “No.”
Not in this world.
“Well then,” she said with a shrug. “I know it’s still early but hope your Christmas is a blast so far.”
I stared back at her as if she’d disappear at any second, then shrugged. “Well it’s definitely … something.”
Silently, I sat next to her on the bench and stared forward, looking at the mass of Christmas trees. There was no snow coating the scenery, hopes of a white Christmas dying as each second passed. But that didn’t really matter. I was sitting in the middle of a park with my best friend who I had slowly forgotten what she even looked like. But seeing her again, her mass of blonde hair, vivid blue eyes, and that mischievous glint across her face, it was like she was never gone. We said nothing to each other and I welcomed the comfortable silence shared between us.
“It’s not even snowing.”
I glanced back at Nina who spoke as if we were in mid conversation, then looked back at the brittle grass brownish in color, the ground with a fine layer of ice where you would slip if you weren’t careful.
“No,” I said. “The one thing I love about Christmas is when it snows. Oh well, maybe next year.”
“Well if I could, I’d totally give you snow as your Christmas gift.”
I chuckled. “Well that’s definitely cost-saving, but I don’t know if Mother Nature will give you that favor though.” I turned, staring at Nina’s profile. “What do you want for Christmas?”
Nina finally turned until she faced me directly and I blinked, trying to prevent any tears that threatened to fall when I saw the somber expression on her face.
“Forgiveness,” she whispered, a tear streaking down her cheek. “For some reason, I feel as if I need the whole world to just forgive me. I don’t think I’ve been a very good friend.”
I placed my hand on top of hers and squeezed gently. “I forgive you.”
She smiled tearfully. “You don’t even know me.”
“Don’t be so sure about that.”
The two of us remained in that park for I don’t even know how long. Just sitting side-by-side, each staring at the scenery before us, wishing things were different.
A cell phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out. I was surprised to find myself staring at a familiar number.
“Connor?” I answered in confusion.
It really was Connor. Did that make him my peeping Tom ex-boyfriend?
“So—” he burst out before I had a chance to speak and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t have to come up with anything. “You coming to the Christmas party tonight?”
“Right, the Christmas party.”
How many parties did this Jade attend in a weekend?
“Yeah. You promised me you would, Jade. Don’t wimp out on me now.”
Wait … were we dating?
“My favourite band will be playing. Plus you know I have a thing for Bianca and she’s gonna be there. You need to be my wing-man.”
Alright, not dating. Thank god. “Don’t you mean, wing-woman?”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever you want.”
I closed my phone shut and turned to Nina to apologize but she was gone, and I was alone. I wondered if I had imagined the entire encounter. Then I remembered this whole thing was a dream to begin with.
Standing up from the bench, I looked around one last final time before making myself back to the Callaghan residence. It would be bizarre to call it home.
I didn’t know how time worked here but it was suddenly dark outside, and I found myself getting ready for a Christmas party. My closet was completely different from the usual black attire I found myself in, but I managed to find a pair of black skinny jeans and a cute red sweater.
Then like a film moving on to its next scene, I found myself standing amongst a winter wonderland. A regular skating rink was now the centerpiece for holiday festivities. While people took advantage of the skating rink, some chose the less sober option by partying it up in one of the various giant dome-like tents surrounding the rink.
I walked into the closest tent and found even more excitement. Loud music, bodies dancing, and booze.
All the ingredients to a successful party.
I actually managed to find Connor quite quickly. He was making out in the corner with, who I assumed was the Bianca that he was talking about earlier. Not needing my duties as a wing-woman anymore, I made my way to a section of the tent that was less crowded. A glass of vodka and Coke seemed to magically appear in my hand by the time I got there and I sipped on it slowly, wondering why I was here in the first place.
“I love how in real life and in my dream, I still manage to have Connor as an ex-boyfriend,” I mumbled to myself.
“Are you okay over there?”
My eyes widened at the sound of the familiar voice. I turned slowly and turned to find glinting green eyes staring down at me inquisitively.
“Re—” I breathed then stopped myself. Reed didn’t know who I was in this reality. I inhaled and tried again. “Yes. I’m fine.”
“Really?” He stepped closer and I impulsively stepped back.
Get it together, Jade. This may not be your Reed but he is Reed.
Shaking my head, I settled my drink on a nearby table. Shoulders back, I looked up at him directly. He smiled when I caught his eye.
“It’s just—” Reed continued. “I don’t know what to think when I see everyone having fun at my party except this one girl who apparently likes to talk to herself.”
“Your party?” I asked, surprised. “And I was not talking to myself—”
“Well, okay, then mumbling to yourself.”
“I was not—” I shook my head exasperatedly. “Okay, fine. But it was just a short conversation.”
Reed grinned. “I like a girl who’s honest.”
I tried not to make it show how much his smile affected me.
“I’m glad you approve.”
His eyes seemed to scan my entire body from top to bottom until it settled straight into mine. “Yes. I do.”
If he kept going, I’d be preggers all over again.
“So you mentioned this was your Christmas party?” I asked, breaking off our connection.
He nodded, the grin not leaving his face. “Yeah. I manage Keener.”
I almost choked. “Keener!”
“I see you’ve heard of them. Yeah, the lead guitarist, Bryn, is my best friend,” he gestured to the stage.
My eyes immediately followed. “B,” I whispered, a grin on my face. I didn’t know how I could have possibly missed him. Yeah, he was playing Christmas tunes instead of rock ones, but you’d think I’d recognize his voice. He had this easy aura to him as he strummed on a guitar, singing in unison with the rest of the band.
You made it, B!
“Well, no one’s ever called him that but it has a nice ring to it,” Reed said. He moved closer, green eyes staring into mine. “I know this might sound too forward, but I want to show you something.”
His fingers encircled my wrist, tugging me toward him. I followed him through the crowd of people as we weaved in and out between them.
We stepped outside of the tent. “Where are you taking me?”
Reed looked back, grinning. “Don’t worry, I’m not sneaking away to have my way with you.”
I snorted. “I’m not worried.”
“The fact that you just snorted makes it even less likely.”
I pulled my hand away from him, eyes narrowed. “Excuse you.”
“I’m just kidding,” he smirked, taking my hand in his again. He squeezed softly and continued to pull me forward. I looked around and realized he had pulled me across the street where a giant Christmas tree was on display. The lights shone brilliantly in the night and we could still hear the sounds of music playing from the party.
“I’m being selfish bringing you here but it was way too loud in there, and I wanted to hear your voice.”
“Who would have thought the organizer would be complaining about the noise level of their own party.”
He looked as if he didn’t hear me; he seemed focused on something else. “Your voice…”
“What about it?”
“It sounds familiar somehow.”
I remembered the phone message I had left him earlier. “I get that a lot.”
“Do you?” He appeared doubtful but he let it go to my relief. “Care to dance?” offered Reed, hands out to me.
“Should I curtsy now?” I asked with raised brows.
“Come on now. It’s been crazy organizing this party and you’ve been the highlight of the day, conversing with a girl who doesn’t seem to care about my job, and actually engages in conversation.”
Nodding my head once, I grabbed on to his hand and he pulled me into his arms. We swayed back and forth to the sound of Christmas jams played by my brother’s band, and I relished in just being with him.
“What’s your name?”
I smiled into his chest then looked up. “It took you long enough to ask.”
“So why are you keeping me waiting?”
“Jade,” Reed said to himself. “That’s a very pretty name.” He tilted his head to my ear. “My name’s Reed in case you’re wondering.”
I said nothing, just smiled softly to myself.
“What?” Reed said, looking down at my face.
“Would you believe me if I told you this wasn’t our first dance?”
Reed replied by pulling me closer, whispering in my ear. “I’d believe anything you say, Jade. And I’m pretty sure this won’t be our last.”
I saw that he was going to say more but I quieted him by placing my fingers against his lips.
“Don’t speak,” I murmured, resting my head against his shoulders as I listened to his heartbeat. “Let’s just listen.”
Reed tightened his hold around me and we swayed back and forth to the music coming faintly from the party. We danced like we were the only ones in the world. I closed my eyes and just relished in the moment of being in Reed’s arms on a perfect Christmas night.
Four Letters Christmas, a short story from the Four Letters universe.
Chapters posted weekly until Christmas day.