Christmas Crucifixion

by Shubhangi Bhatnagar

“Peter, could you get the door?”, Sara shouted over Michael Bubl√© playing in the background.
The Johnsons were decked out in their finery. A horrible year was finally coming to an end. Things weren’t looking up, already. But, Peter and Sara couldn’t taint Christmas for Salini.

They had talked about this as newly-weds; they would make sure that they would retain the surreal magic of Christmas for as long as possible for their future children. They dreamt of a large family cosied around the Christmas tree. The chaos would begin early in the morning when their kids would rush into their bedroom and drag them to the tree. The two would try their best to fain surprise at the spectacle they had created in the living room late during the night. The day would be full of gasps, awes and laughter.

While their dream of raising a large family never came true, they made sure they poured all their love into raising their only child, Salini. Admittedly, she was a little spoilt; she was their kryptonite, their only pride and joy. Her puppy-dog eyes would melt the most resilient resolve.

The puppy-dog eyes reminded Sara of their boisterous little pup, Ginger. Salini had found Ginger underneath their car before school one morning. Typical of Salini, she could not hear no. Ever since then, Ginger had wreaked havoc in their house. Well, not just their house, but their neighbour’s as well.

Ginger’s antics had soured their years of friendship with the bachelor, Arnav, who lived next door. So much so that Arnav even put a barbed wire between the two houses. That never sat well with the Johnsons, who were always worried about Salini getting hurt by it. Arnav could not care less, and it seemed to them that he enjoyed the barbed wires irking them.

“Sara, come here! You wouldn’t believe who decided to show up,” Peter called answering the door. Sara could see Peter gleaming, and curiously peaked through the door. It was none other than Arnav, the friend-turned-foe.

“Hey Sara, this is for you.” Arnav handed her a present, tied neatly with a bright red bow. “A peace offering, if you will,” Arnav said sheepishly. The bow had been a little wet, and Sara noticed it had actually been painted red. It made her internally roll her eyes thinking about men.

“Consider the fences mended, my friend,” Peter said with a pat on his back. Sara didn’t forget to add, “I hope they’re mended literally as well, you know, with removing that hideous wire?”.

“Well then, consider that done, as well. I think they’ve served their purpose,” Arnav replied with a slight smile poking through. Sara got a little chill, and just as she was about to ask what that was about, Peter snatched the present from her hands. “Can’t wait to see what it is. I remember you being a great gifter, Arnav,” Peter said while tearing through the wrapping paper, “Oh look, Sara, it’s a beautiful figure of the Christ on the cross.”

“I must say, it really is beautiful, Arnav,” Sara chimed in.

“Well I was hoping with this my sins would be washed away too,” Arnav replied with what seemed like a more genuine smile to Sara.

After a little catching-up, Arnav left them to return to their festivities. The couple then realised Salini had been missing for a while. After turning the house upside-down, they both ran into the garden. Finally spotting her, relief ran through their bodies. As they inched closer, they realised Salini had been staring blankly towards the fence. It is when their gaze struck the sight of Ginger rammed into the barbed wires, with a pool of red underneath.

Christmas was never the same for Salini again.

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