“Dad?” Nora shoved the kitchen door with her hip, peering into the room in search of help. It was empty and clean. Nora sighed and shuffled in, her arms hugging brown grocery bags. She leaned them down on the counter island and lept after an escaped onion.
Produce secured, Nora looked around and frowned at the empty sink. So no one had made anything. She left the groceries sitting with quick steps and followed the sounds of deep vocals and piano. The music swelled from the living room. Nora stepped in without announcing herself. Their tree was set up in the corner, electrically aglow. Pine needles sprinkled the carpet.
Her father was alone in the armchair, their tree skirt crumpled at his feet. The Christmas box was open and Nora could see old cards. scattered within. The woman singing over the stereo mourned in a deep trill. “Hey dad, you found the skirt. Good.” Nora turned the corners of her mouth up.
“In the box with the rest of this stuff.” Her father waived the photo in his hand at her. An old Christmas card, one he’d insisted on despite his wife and teenage son’s rolled eyes. Nora had been ten. Too young for the indignity to smart. “She hated letting anyone else take the picture. Hated posed pictures,” He said, voice rough.
“Yup.” Nora supplied before he could continue and bent to pick up the tree skirt. “Glad we insisted though, so we have it. You hungry?”
“What time is it?” He was looking at the picture again, holding the edges carefully so his fingers did not touch anyones’ face.
“Seven. Dinner time.” Nora turned and switched off the dirge. Only the low thrum of electric lights took its space and Nora winced at the silence.
“–She liked that song.” Her father barely flicked his eyes up, still locked to the photo.
“That doesn’t sound like her.” Nora swallowed around the stutter in her throat. She set a hand on her father’s shoulder and squeezed. “It sounds like you. It sounds like Liam. But mom didn’t like sentimentality. Come on, I’m cooking.”
He didn’t respond and she almost plucked the photo away. Nora would have liked to rip it up, she savored what it would feel like to have the glossy print tear between her fingers. Instead, she kept her itching fingers at her sides until he looked at her. She smiled, forcing every ounce of warmth she had left through her teeth. “Come on. Don’t make me cook alone.”
Her father didn’t move at first, and the pressure grew in the back of Nora’s throat. He straightened his arms and pulled himself up. Once standing, he kissed her on top of the head. “Shouldn’t you be worrying about school? Instead of me.”
“Its winter break dad,” Nora said. She led the way back to the kitchen and did not see her father’s face fall. The grocery bags still sagged from their own weight on the counter. Nora started to unpack.
He cleared his throat. “Any word from Liam?”
When she shook her head, he only nodded.
Raw Rambles apparently likes depressing Christmas music, and she challenged me to write to it. Above is my piece, here is hers.