Christmas was not molly's favourite time of year, to many bad memories from childhood and beyond meant she paid it little heed. Now single and living miles from her nearest neighbours she could pretty much pretend it didn't happen. She had no tree, no twinkling lights and the only decoration of any kind was the candle in the window.
When she was younger her family had the usual flashing lights and always a real tree that she decorated along side her siblings. Presents started to appear from friends and relations as the days got closer to Christmas day, the bigger parental presents stayed away so that Santa got the credit on Christmas morning, This was also a useful trick to prevent inquisitive fingers trying to subtly pull back a corner of wrapping paper.
Molly enjoyed Christmas until she found out where things can from and who actually supplied the bike and sundry dolls and clothes. This wasn't her main problem with the season though, this was after her parents split up and the inevitable custody arguments began. Each parent trying to be the most generous and least strict , something which confused and possibly damaged her siblings. Molly was bright enough to see what was happening, though she was also smart enough not to refuse the extra treats from both sides.
So by the time she left home she associated Christmas with divorce and competitive present giving. After finishing university she moved to a small farm house left over when most of the farm had been sold off for development. As the house was at the top of a sloped field all the new properties were beneath here, giving her a full 360 degree view of the world around her.
Five years ago, after a whirlwind romance, her first serious boyfriend moved in. The romance and the adventure continued for a while but almost inevitably started to slow down after a few wild years. Indeed it came to an end a year ago today, Christmas eve. He hadn't meant to leave then, the plan was for an amicable ending in the early new year. He had a place ready for early January but circumstances took over. His mother slipped and fell on the recently fallen snow, he rushed to help her through hospital and recovery and simply didn't return to molly.
He had pretty much moved his possessions out and molly dropped the remaining ones at his new place when she knew he was out. She even left a small Christmas gift that she had bought him so that Christmas day had some normality. He had texted a thank you and she thanked his thanks. Then communication stopped. She found her self by the window, looking to where she had seen him last.
She remembered him rushing towards his car while trying not to join his mother in hospital as a patient. He had turned to wave through the sleet, got in the car and left molly's life. Staring past the flickering candle molly could almost see the tail lights leaving, then she realised two things. Firstly there was snow falling again, also she could see real tail lights leaving down the road from her house. This wouldn't mean much to many people except that this road only connected to molly's house.
As she stared through the snow she could actually see tire tracks. The vehicle had appeared to have driven towards molly's house, stopped near her house and then done a three point turn before leaving. Obviously it could have been someone who got lost in the dark and thought that the road would lead somewhere else. Obviously also it could have been someone up to no good.
On renovating the farmhouse a few years ago she had found an old and slightly rusty shot gun behind a wall panel. She presumed it was the farmers and thought it would be a decent tool to frighten off intruders. After cleaning it and oiling the bits that looked like they needed it she opened it to see 2 cartridges still in place. Molly presumed they would be long past any use but decided to leave them in place in case they went off as she tried to removed them.
She looked to the cabinet it sat on, wondering if it would work if she tried. As she contemplated her possible shooting ability two things happened. She heard the wind pick up, almost at the same time she heard her generator make and unhealthy sound and stop. So in almost pitch black Molly's thought were having to get it restarted as soon as possible. She didn't want to spend any more time then absolutely needed in the shed fixing it. The wind and the snow would bite in to her bones almost instantly.
This had happened last year as well, in fact anytime the snow fell. The wind blew snow in to the generators vents, blocked them and the generator automatically shut down. All that was needed was to clean the vents, wait a few minutes ,then re-fire it. The house was heated by an open fire sh she knew she would be alright for heat on her return.
She used the candle to find her torch, the torch to find her big coat and then took both into the freezing night. She pushed against the wind towards the shed, She half saw something in her peripheral vision but was so intent on reaching the shed she soon forgot it. It was exactly as she thought, blocked vents on the generator. She cleared them and then for the wait before pressing start. While waiting she started wondering what had spooked her as she got to the shed.
Then the image suddenly reappeared in her memory, where was the wooden boxes that should have been by the shed. They were normally piled against the back wall, old wooden milk crates. Deciding it was her memory playing tricks and that they had been moved ages ago she went back to her focus on the generator. After waiting and allowing a few seconds extra for good luck she fired the generator and ran back inside. She noticed the crates piled by her kitchen window, she briefly thought she must have moved them.
Once inside the priority was putting the lights on and standing by the fire. She threw the long coat off and stood as close to the fire as she could to let her face and hands regain circulation. She became aware that while she had heat at the front of her there was a draught gently blowing on her neck. She knew ll doors and windows should be tightly shut so this confused her. It was an old house but the main windows and doors were fairly new. The house was so exposed to the weather that this had been the first update she had done.
The lights briefly flickered but stayed lit, molly decided to trace the unwelcome draught. As she turned to face the chilly breeze she found herself facing the kitchen. As she walked in she saw the small window above the sink was open, hanging from the latch was a doll on a string. Usually calm and thoughtful , molly looked at the doll. She linked it to the mystery car but had no idea who or why. As she stood wondering a noise behind her made her jump and emit a small shriek.
Walking out of the kitchen she looked for the source of the noise, she quickly saw a small box on the mat inside her front door. This must have meant someone had just posted it and the noise was the box landing. She slowly opened the front door, scanning the snowy grass for signs of the mystery postman. She saw no one, turning to return she saw foot prints in the snow. She was about to shut the door when she noticed there were too many footprints, hers were the shape of her trainers but their were welly shaped ones as well.
She tried to think of a logical answer but was struggling. She had little family and few friends, all who knew her distaste for the season. She was about to shut the door and look in the newly arrived box when the generator again shut down. Even with a heavy snowfall it should take a few hours before shut down again. She clawed around inside the door until she found the torch and went to the shed. This time she couldn't see why it went off, so she pressed the button and it started up. She stood watching it for a few moments, checked the connections and the fuel. Satisfied she went back to the house, to a firmly closed front door. She knew she had fixed the latch so this couldn't happen but somehow it had.
Luckily her spare key was above the door as usual and she let herself inside to the warm. Flicking the lights on and returning to the welcome fireside she tried to process what was happening. It took her a few seconds to realise that their was a small Christmas stocking pinned to the shelf above the fire. This meant that the next sound she wade was a proper scream, she tried to look all directions at once and collapsed in the chair behind her.
"What was happening to me" she said out loud. The doll, the box, the stocking and the second failure of the generator was messing with her head. She decided someone was playing with her head, who it was she couldn't fathom. She decided the best bet was to grab the gun and call the police, the stocking was proof someone had been in the house. The snow had covered most of the tracks but the rest were real.
She grabbed the gun and was about to lift her phone when she heard a creak above her head. There were no pets, there were no loose floor boards and no way that the creak was anything but caused by an intruder. She decided that if she made the phone call the intruder could sneak down to her or try to escape through her bedroom window. Her previous fright was replaced by anger. The shotgun was all she needed to detain the intruder or to give them a massive fright at least.
She gathered her muddled thoughts, tried to slow her racing heart and started to sneak up stairs. The house had only 2 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and molly knew the noise was in her bedroom. As she walked towards the bedroom door she held the gun in front of herself in a hopefully threatening way.
Her fingers naturally coiled around the dual triggers and she got closer to the door. As she approached she saw a Christmas wreath on the door, taped on in a hurry. As she approached she heard a creak , it sounded like it was just in front of her. The gap beneath her bedroom door allowed a small amount of light out, as she looked it flickered as if someone was walking around. As she got closer still she was so fixated on the door that she didnt see another fancily wrapped box by the door.
As she moved forward she kicked the box, stumbled and fired the gun in almost one movement. She managed to blast a hole in the door and she heard a grunt of pain. She decided that as someone had broken in she was probably allowed to defend herself and any way she could say she thought the cartridges were too old.
As she gently pushed the door open she saw a figure kneeling on the floor, he was wearing a red coat and around him a pool of blood was forming. Deciding that she should see if she could see if it was too late for first aid or not and turned the slumped man over.
This time what she saw made her finally release the banshee scream that had been held for the last hour. Lieing on the floor, dressed in a father Christmas outfit was her ex boyfriend. As the blood continued to pool on the floor molly bent over to see if he was alive. He managed with effort to open his eyes, focussing slowly on molly he managed to force a smile.
With effort he managed to whisper, "sorry, I just wanted to give you a Christmas surprise"
As he drew his final breath molly sat down and cried, Christmas had destroyed her again.