Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 2

The First Noel

Chapter Two - Joy to the World

Justine could tell right away that this was not a normal man in front of her. Despite his sudden appearance in a place he certainly didn’t belong, there was nothing threatening about him. He smelled of pine trees, and those cookies her grandmother always made, little Christmas trees. They were just normal sugar cookies, and everyone always told her that food coloring had no taste, no smell, but there was just somthing unique about those cookies that always made her feel like it was Christmastime. She may not have been the tallest girl around, but, other than some basketball players at college, she’d never met anyone that tall. Or, at least, who seemed that tall - she expected to see him duck as they walked out the front door, yet he just walked straight through.

It was then that two things occurred to Justine. The first, and most important, was, “What the hell am I doing?” She felt a bit like she’d already been into her parents’ wine, and was a little tipsy, while at the same time feeling like a raft, caught in a bigger ship’s wake, unable to keep herself from getting caught up. She found herself walking automatically, although once she became conscious of it, she had to struggle to keep up with the man’s long legs. But why was she even trying? Why would she want to go anywhere with this man who had just broken into her house?

And the second thing was, “It is freezing out here.” Clad in her robe and slippers, with her hair still soaking wet, she was sure she was going to catch pneumonia in the time it took for her to get back inside, especially when she looked behind herself to see that her house was already out of sight.

It took a little concentration, but she managed to stop herself, plant her feet in the cold snow. The man kept going for a moment, and she felt an almost physical tugging at her body, nearly enough to send her spilling face-first onto the ground. “Wait!” she said quickly, still wobbling on her feet. She had planned on simply turning around and walking back, but, somehow, that seemed like it wasn’t an option. Luckily, he did stop, or else she expected she would have found herself being dragged down the sidewalk by whatever mystical force was joining her and him.

“You are all right, vnuchka?” he asked, kneeling down in front of her, still managing to tower over her.

“I don’t… I’m not even sure what that means!” she told him. It sounded Russian, which made sense, since his accent sounded a bit Russian as well. That still didn’t help her to decipher what the word meant, however. “Look, I-I know you think you know me, but you have the wrong person, and I just want to go home, okay?” It was a struggle to get even that much out, as her teeth began to chatter from the cold.

He looked confused for a moment, before a look of realization washed over him. “Oh, you have been away so long… Here, this will help.” He reached inside his coat, pulling out what looked like an old-fashioned canteen, holding it out for her.

She shook her head. “No, I’m not thirsty,” she told him, starting to feel frustrated. “Pleast, j-just let me go inside…”

He sighed. “It had been too long… You do not remember?”

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she wailed. To her surprise, as she stood there, complaining, the man sprang forward, quicker than she’d have expected anyone to be able to move, much less him, and shoved the spout of the canteen into her mouth. She struggled, trying to break free, but he held her in place, his grip strong but gentle. Her first thought, terribly stereotypical as she knew she was for thinking it, was that it would be vodka. Not that she didn’t like vodka, but being force fed it by a stranger wasn’t generally how she liked to enjoy it. Then she thought it would be something less obvious, some kind of drug.

That thought didn’t completely go away, although, as the liquid flowed into her mouth, she had trouble thinking of it hiding any secrets. It was water, pure and simple, and as pure and simple water as she’d ever tasted. This wasn’t tap water, or even bottled water, tainted by chemicals, just, as far as she could tell, water.

After a couple mouthfuls, he let her go, and she pulled away quickly, coughing. “What is the matter with you?!” she demanded. “I don’t even know you, how dare you…?” She stopped as she realized her teeth were no longer chattering, that, despite the snow she could see melting on her slippers, her feet weren’t cold anymore. In fact, she wasn’t cold anywhere. “What was… Who are you?”

The old man’s face fell. “You still do not remember?”

She shook her head. Despite what she thought she had tasted, she was sure that she had to have been given some sort of drug, because now, rather than simple not-cold, she was feeling pleasantly warm, as if she were sitting beside a fireplace, warming herself after a long night out in the snow. It felt nice, she had to admit, although not knowing what was causing it made her feel a little nervous about the whole thing.

“We have much to do tonight,” he told her. “Perhaps you will remember during. Come.” He put his hand on her back, started to lead her away. This time, she did not feel quite as helpless in his presence, the world did not seem to be swimming by quite as quickly, but she knew she was still not in total control.

“No,” she said. “No, you take me home, and then you can explain. I don’t know what’s going on, and… Where the hell are we?” She glanced around, surprised to find herself not just a block or two away from home, but seemingly worlds away. The snow was much deeper here, the houses a bit less dense, less decorated, the mailboxes marked with glyphs that were definitely not English.

“We are a bit early this year,” the man told her. “I think they will still be happy to see us, though.”

Justine continued to look around, dumbfounded, as she was led up to one of the houses. Common sense told her that she shouldn’t go into some strange house with this person, but it also told her that, in the five minutes she’d been with him, there was no way she could have gotten to… wherever this place was. He knocked on the door with his walking stick, rapping once, twice. There was a flurry of activity inside, and then the door creaked open, held by a small girl in her nightgown. She glanced up at them, at first confused, and then with growing recognition in her eyes.

She let out what was clearly an exclamation of joy, though Justine had no idea what the actual word was, and grabbed the old man’s hand, leading him inside. Curious, and not wanting to be out alone in this place, Justine followed, and they were led into a living room, where another child was sitting on a couch with his parents, at least until he saw the man. He jumped up from the sofa and ran over to the man, hugging him. The man smiled, reaching into his coat to pull out a small package, which he handed to the boy, who then returned to the couch to open in excitedly.

The girl, obviously the older of the children, had more to say, although it was still all gibberish to Justine. The old man chuckled, nodded, said something in reply, then turned to Justine. “She is right. You are missing something.” Again, he went into his coat, this time coming out with a hat, much like his own, only blue. “This is yours,” he said, handing it to her. Justine stared down at the hat, and then at the girl, still not quite grasping what was going on. The girl was clearly waiting for something, so, slowly, she reached up and put the hat on, making the child jump up and squeal. Justine couldn’t help but smile, even if she didn’t understand what had been so exciting about that.

“Here,” the man said, giving Justine something else. “Maybe this will remind you.”

Justine saw she had been given a package, wrapped in plain red paper, tied with a silver ribbon, much like the one the little boy had been given. She looked up at the man, unsure, and he nodded to the little girl. The girl grinned and took it, rushing off to her family. It was sweet, but if there were any memories it was meant to bring up, it didn’t work.

“It will come,” the man reassured her. “We have many other stops.” He waved to the family, who cheerfully waved back, and then they were back out on the street, heading to the next house.

They visited child after child, handing out many presents, far more than he could have held in that coat, she was sure, though he somehow just kept finding more. No memories came flooding back, as he seemed sure would happen, but as the night went on, she began to care about that less and less, as she found herself quite happy just giving out the packages, watching the children smile and laugh, and rip into the paper. And, while she still had no idea what any of them were saying, there was a phrase she learned to recognize, one that always came up, usually the very first thing to be said when the door was opened - “Ded Moroz.”

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 2

Gosh - we enter new cultural territory. Do we have any Eastern Europeans here?

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 2

Ok 1 of 2 things A i play to many games B i read to much cause ummm. Ded Moroz thats a staff from old times if i remember right……and a cursed one at that……

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 2

Alternatively: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ded_Moroz

Re: Old Habits Die Hard - A Christmas Story, Chapter 2

o.o oh wow i just learned something o.O hes Santa!