Christmas Eve

Snow gently falls around me, speckling my fur and adding another layer of snow to the frozen ground. Christmas lights gleam in the distance, illuminating the city with more colors than anyone can imagine. The faint sound of ringing church bells echo through the frigid night. The warm church stands behind me. The lights are on and the choir sings, driving their love and passion from their hearts and souls. My back is to the church and I stand at least twenty yards away, but I can still hear them belting out "Do You Hear What I Hear?" with zeal.

Bitter wind rips through the night, blowing my emerald and ruby scarf in my face. I brush it out of the way and clutch the wreath in my hand. The wreath in alive with emerald leaves, scarlet bows, and ornaments that seem to glimmer. The sweet and brisk scent of pine wafts from the wreath, filling my nostrils with the aroma. I clasp onto the wreath tightly and look at the tombstone in front of me.

The cemetery was built behind the church; it allows mourners to pray at the altar, asking for their loved ones to rest in peace after visiting them at the cemetery. After the Christmas Eve service is over, I can count on dozens of people to visit their lost loved ones. I figure I have about half an hour to finish my business here. Ample time.

I kneel down in front of the tombstone. Frost clings to the smooth stone and I brush it away gently, revealing the name of the one who is buried here.

Maria Robotnik

Cherished Granddaughter and Friend

Promise and Hope keeps you alive.

"This was always your favorite time of year Maria," I say softly; the wind snatches my voice away, but I don't care. I bring the wreath forward and gently drape it over the tombstone, allowing it to rest on the ground. Every year since my memory was recovered, I have decorated Maria's grave for Christmas. It was something she and I did together on the ARK, and something she would want me to continue. I have never broken this tradition and I don't plan to.

"This was the best wreath they had, and I think you'd like the smell," I say, my voice catching. I clear my throat and try to ignore the stinging in my eyes. I reach into the cuff of my glove and pull out a note with Maria's name on it. I place the note between the wreath and the tombstone, hoping that the wreath will hold it in place.

"I hope you can read this…wherever you are," I whisper. A huge lump forms in my throat and the stinging in my eyes grows. Tears begin to fall and I don't fight them. I almost expect the tears to freeze on my face, but they slide off my face smoothly. I stay like that for a long time, kneeling in front of Maria's grave, tears steadily flowing. I take a deep breath and stand up straight. I look at Maria's decorated tombstone and smile slightly.

"Merry Christmas, Maria…" I say. Salty tears run into my mouth and I don't bother to wipe them away.

My ear twitches and I can hear the faint sounds of talking and people leaving the church. The Christmas Eve service must be over. I take one last long look at Maria's grave, reading the note I wrote for her one last time.

M-

I loved you once,

Love you still.

Always have,

Always will.

Merry Christmas.

-S