Christmas Eve. Lights blinked on every corner, it was brighter than day.
Christmas Eve. Drops of rain landed gently in puddles, causing fairy lights to dance in the streets.
Christmas Eve. The night she dreaded had finally arrived.
Back facing the mirror, Cindy twisted, and glared at the bow on her dress.
“I’d be in fashion if it was the eighties and I was a bridesmaid.”
Mum called from downstairs. “Cindy, let’s go.”
“Happy carolling, loser.”
She flounced out of her room.
“The night I’ve been waiting for, Peaches.” Brenton reached into the cage, put his finger under the parrot’s feet and drew him out.
“I won’t be long. You be good.” He kissed the bird and put it back in the cage. Reaching for his pills, he hesitated, and instead grasped the knife.
Carols echoed across the glittering darkness. A group of teenagers finished their song and headed for a minibus parked on the street.
“I wish it weren’t raining.”
“Less people to see us.” Cindy shook her curls.
“Why are you doing this if you hate it so much?”
“I don’t have a choice. Mum’d have a fit if I didn’t go carolling. Pastor’s daughter can’t miss church events.” Cindy slumped in her seat, pouting.
Brenton didn’t bother sticking to the shadows. No-one would challenge him. That was the beauty of his plan.
“You bring this on yourself. Just be real about what you like.”
Jean had no clue what it was like to be the daughter of a perfect pastor. Cindy cocked her head to one side, eyes thin.
“My uncle’s taking me to a real New Year’s party. Wanna come?”
Jean’s smile didn’t stick.
“Nah, why don’t you come to the church party? Isn’t Matt going?”
“Matt schmatt. I’m gonna break up with that goody two shoes. My New Year’s resolution is to do what I want.”
“Matt’s a total catch. If you can’t see that...” Jean rolled her eyes and shrugged.
Cindy turned to glare at the blackness out the window, but was assaulted by the bright lights.
Maybe I won’t even come back after the party.
Brenton fingered the handle in his pocket. His mouth curved as people passed him by, wishing him a Merry Christmas.
The carollers always finished on the steps of the church for a carol finale. This year, people gathered under umbrellas to listen.
Pastor Laudenbach stood to one side, eyes twinkling like fairy lights.
Brenton’s eyes were black holes, his pink lips now taut, the only outward trace of the churning in his gut.
“Hey! How are you? I’m so glad you came. I know with Judy leaving and all...” The pastor put his hand firmly on the younger man’s shoulder. “Well, I’m just glad you came.”
He ducked his head.
How dare he mention her? In front of all these people.
The pastor stepped in front of the carollers.
Cindy cringed. Every year her Dad insisted that they finish with ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' It was his favourite carol.
She felt Matt’s fingers, thick and strong, seeking out her own, and to her confusion, they willingly entwined.
Breaking up, remember?
Her traitorous body responded to the depths of his voice as he sang.
Cindy frowned, then brightened as she noticed the uncle who promised freedom standing by her Dad.
Matt lunged downwards, jerking her arm as he released her hand.
Cindy thought he’d flipped until she saw the shimmering of a silver blade at Daddy's ribs.
A cold shock jolted through her body. Her face tingled as she watched in slow motion trying to comprehend what was going on.
The blade flashed. Someone screamed. Matt’s body blocked her view. She could see nothing but his back and a rain puddle reflecting the lights.
Those drips were faster than rain. It was blood.
Her heartbeat stopped, body frozen solid from the inside out.
Matt was slumped on the ground.
Dad held Uncle Brenton down.
“O tidings of comfort and joy..." echoed around her bouncing off buildings and people.
Still reflecting flashing lights, the blood puddle silently mocked.
Through the fog of fear in her mind, one thought penetrated.
Matt saved Dad.
Deep in Cindy’s heart, the fire stoking her resentment sputtered for a moment.
A foot stomped heavily through the puddle.
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