Whether you have read this before or this is the first time around, I hope you enjoy the first of this series:
Pine Needles & Sherry
The paint work was crumbling and the yard neglected but to me, it would always be the Old House. I watched as they busied themselves unpacking. No one seemed to notice me. It was Christmas Eve and soon a tree would be carried in and decorated. The smell of fresh pine needles would fill the sitting room.
I rummaged through a box of bottles. Finding the one I wanted, I pulled it clear. Cream Sherry. I’d had plenty of practice over the years grabbing what I required. I took a glass from the next box, poured the golden liquid from the bottle into it, then replaced its cap. Leaning against the wall, I let the bottle slip from my fingers. It dropped to the floor. I held the glass up to my nose and sniffed. The memories of Christmases past flooded back. I wasn’t going to drink it. I just wanted to hold it, smell it and remember.
“Fetch those boxes for me Natalie.”
“Those in the corner?”
“Yes, I want to pack them into the sideboard. Then we can move the sofa over and make room for the tree. It should arrive soon.”
I stepped out of the way as Natalie approached. What was she? Sixteen, seventeen? She was in her first flush of womanhood. I looked at her shapely legs, her firm breasts, like two ripe peaches just waiting to be plucked. I inhaled the Sherry’s bouquet—yes, I remember how good it felt. Should I pick up the bottle for her? No, she wouldn’t expect me to help.
Natalie picked up the stray bottle and placed it back in the box and carried it over to the sideboard. The two women sorted out its contents, stacking them into the cupboard. The door bell rang. I walked out into the hallway. Natalie brushed past me. I saw her hesitate and shiver. Was it cold in here? It felt okay to me. She flung the door open.
“The tree’s arrived,” she called over her shoulder. “Bring it in,” she said, stepping aside to allow the man access. I stepped aside too. She stared at me for a moment, her blue eyes penetrating into my soul. Did she see the real me? She followed the man into the sitting room. I followed her.
“It’s a fine tree,” said the man. “Where do you want it?”
“By the bay window would be perfect,” said her mother.
“Right you are ma’am.”
He set the tree up and I watched as they thanked him, gave him a tip and showed him out. I kept to the corner, blending into the shadows, not wanting to get in the way. No one spoke to me. They never did. I swirled the gold liquid around the glass. Should I smell it one more time just to remind myself? No, I remember well enough. This is such a special time of the year.
“Shall I fetch the tree decorations, mum?”
“Why not do it later tonight. Your father and I are going out. You’ll have the house to yourself.”
Don’t forget I’ll be here. Why do they always forget I’ll be here?”
Natalie shivered again. “Is there a draft coming from somewhere?” she said rubbing her arms.
“I don’t think so dear.”
I decided to leave them alone. I’d come back later this evening and help her decorate the tree.
* * *
The night sky filled the bay windows as I watched Natalie draw the curtains to shut out the dark. I walked over to her, wondering if she could see me yet. I knew she sense me. I could see the goosebumps appear on her bare arms. I liked it when they sensed me. Somehow it made it all the more exciting.
I circled around her and lifted a strand of her hair— she smelled so good. She raised her hand, brushed the side of her cheek and shivered again. I saw the tension in her face, and smiled. She’s trying to convince herself it’s nothing but her imagination. Should I toy with her or get straight to it? What fun would there be in rushing it? I decide to play with her—just like that girl played with me. Sherry. She always drank Sherry—that sweet, rich aroma on her breath. I remember that smell mixed with the perfume of pine needles from the tree, even as I placed the gun to my head.
I watched Natalie place baubles and tinsel on the branches, humming a tune while she worked. Her voice cracked now and again as she nervously checked over her shoulder, for what, she wasn’t sure. I could tell she knew she wasn’t alone. I flickered the lights for a moment before I plunged the room into darkness. She screamed. I dropped the temperature around her by several degrees. It was all going to plan.
I kissed her skin, caressing her slowly. Petrified, she froze. I brushed her lips with mine, the merest touch, icy, cold.
“Leave me alone,” she cried.
I felt her fear. It shot through me like a bolt of electricity, so arousing. I’d waited such a long time for this new girl. I turned on the lights and stood by the tree, dressed in my old fashioned dinner suit. She could see me now, her eyes wide, staring. Small beads of sweat glistened on her forehead, like jewels sparkling in the soft light. Tears wet my cheeks. I looked at her. She registered my pain in her face as she watched me raise the gun to my head. BANG— I doused the lights. In the darkness there was nothing but the steady thudding of her heart.
I flickered the lights and watched her from the shadows. Her face was a deathly white. She stared dumbstruck at the vacant spot where I had stood, then looked at the sherry glass in her hand.
Merry Christmas sweetheart.