Her slumber was short, interrupted as the clock struck one and the snow continued to softly fall from the dark sky. She bolted awake, the air around her was frosty, her alarmed, hurried breath clouding in front of her as arms wrapped tightly around her. Her cries filled the room, but April’s isolation from the rest of her flock meant that none of them would ever hear her.
She struggled against the arms, but there was no escape, and after a moment, her panic faded, and there was a warmth that felt familiar, welcome, even.
“Daddy?” The arms around her squeezed gently, and she slowly opened her eyes, turning behind her to see yet another impossible sight on that Christmas Eve, her long dead father. Their eyes had not met since she was seven years old, and now, an equal to the man who once towered over her, her eyes filled with tears as she fell into his embrace once again.
“We don’t have much time, Princess.” The man was just as she remembered him. She had been spared the sight of his face at the funeral, the gaunt skin, cuts, bruises and violence of her mother, so he came to her in a calming vision, just as she remembered him, and just as she needed him to be. “There is so much for you to see.” He stood from the bed, pulling her to her feet with him, and strode towards the window, April pulling back as he pushed it opened and the freezing air of the night flew at her face.
“Daddy, I’ll fall!” Her father chuckled, placing a kiss on her forehead as he captured her in his strong arms once again, and leapt, carrying both of them from the window. April scrunched her eyes tightly shut and let out another scream that was destined to be heard by nobody but the two of them, as the wind whipped quickly around them.
April fell against the soft snow, her father rushing her to her feet as sunlight poured from the sky. April surveyed the scene, the old front garden that she’d spent so much of her childhood in spread out before her. The street was lit up with bright and beautiful lights, and on the lawn before the place she had called home for much of her life was a small girl.
The child was alone, sitting in the snow, surrounded by dolls. Her dark hair was plaited on each side of her head, and her young face was filled with a sadness far beyond her years.
“You should go inside, kid…” April knelt before the girl, her heart heavy as she watched the girl play in solitude. The girl didn’t seem to notice, and April snapped her fingers in front of the child’s face, trying feverishly to get her attention.
“Nobody can see or hear you, Princess.” Her father whispered, pulling her back from the isolated child. “This was the first Christmas where you were truly alone.” April recognised herself, and she recognised the loneliness that surrounded her. After her father had died, her mother was wrapped up in doing Invierno’s bidding, so April was all alone, for the first time.
“Everyone had a tough childhood Daddy, it’s no big deal.” Her father frowned, taking her hand once again as they walked together into a bright curtain of light, emerging on the other side in another familiar setting.
“Back then, you lost the Christmas spirit, but here’s where you found it again.” Her father gestured to the small living room that surrounded them, and April couldn’t help but smile at the memories it conjured. In the corner was a small Christmas tree, with a few neatly wrapped presents beneath it, and across the room was April, cradling a small child in her arms with a glimmering smile on her face. “I never got the chance to meet my Grandson.” There was a hint of sadness in her father’s voice as he spoke, but April didn’t respond, enchanted by the sight of her son, reaching up with his tiny little arms towards her smiling face.
“It’s just you and me, Adam.” April watched her younger self doting on her only child, and her stomach dropped. She knew the boy’s fate, and that she would never forgive herself for her part in it, but there was nothing to be done, for she found herself in a memory, with no way to change what had already come to pass.
“Don’t you see, April?” Her father chimed, pulling her away from the happy scene. “Christmas is best when you have someone to share the season with.” April was silent, storming away from her father, only to be pulled back into his arms a moment later. The man looked down at her with a smile. “I just wish I’d got to share more with you.” April returned his smile, silently wishing the same.
Far from where they stood, April could hear the distant din of bells. Her father glanced down with a glimmer of sadness in his eyes, and April watched as the man broke from her embrace and began to walk away. The room faded and they were surrounded by snow and the weakened sun, desperately trying to reach them.
The bells began to fill the air and the snow grew heavier all around her, her legs seeming to be even heavier as she trudged through the snow after her father.
“Daddy, don’t leave me.” The wind whistled in her ear as she chased after the man, blinded by the flurry of snow, but he was going somewhere that she could not follow, and there was someone else who would greet her, just moments later.