Lia ran a brush through her matted hair. Her bedroom was dim and the teal walls shrieked vibrant. Outside, she heard her neighbors, Kayla and Jessica, playing in the silky snow attempting to build a snowman.
A chilled breeze then pushed a branch to the window. It scratched the window like the window had asked the branch to scratch a terrible itch on its back.
Lia trembled not knowing what that was and did sort of a pirouette to face the frosted window. But the branch was no longer rubbing up against the window, instead it swayed back and forth on the leafless and lifeless tree outside her bedroom.
The early morning breeze pushed itself through a slight crack at the bottom of the window bringing a smile to Lia’s face.
She was not at all looking forward to spending an entire day with a bunch of old relatives she barely knew pinching her cheeks and telling her how much she’s grown, but she knew she had to keep a good attitude or else. Lia sighed.
Just think, she thought, presents!
Reluctantly she yanked on a pair of white skinny jeans and a red sweater and glided out of her bedroom.
“Jingle bells, Jingle Bells!” sang her father merrily from the kitchen. Her mother joined in and she smelled something burning.
“OH COME ON!” yelled her mother “DO NOT LET ME START SINGING WITHOUT MAKING SURE I CAN’T BURN ANYTHING!” she yelled. “Oh the ham.” Lia heard her mother sigh and with that she heard the sound of the trash can opening and closing.
It was going to be an interesting Christmas.
“Joyce! How nice to see you again!”came a high pitched voice from the living room. It was great aunt Peg greeting Lias mother.
Lia trotted into the living room only to face a man sitting on a tattered wheelchair talking very rapidly for a man his age. He looked about 95. He was telling tales of family to Joyce, whose shirt was stained with cooking grease. Lias father Robert who had a book at his side was also listening in along with my brother who's hair looked like it had been ruffled by great aunt Peg who was stationed at his side.
“Hello” began Lia softly. She was standing in the door way behind where the family was chatting. Joyce turned around and aunt peg smiled calmly.
“Lia! How nice too see you,”she began “There is someone I would like you too meet.”
Lia crept forward towards her aunt.
“Lia this is your great great uncle Thomas. Your mothers grandpas brother. He is 96 years old.”
He grinned while trying to push his frail body up from his wheelchair to shake Lias hand but aunt Pegs wrinkled hand pushed him back down.
“You must be Lia Ellsworth! I have heard so much about you!” he exclaimed
“Go on” whispered her mother in Lias ear. Lia continued forward to shake her uncles hand.
“Pleasure to meet you!”said uncle Thomas very merrily while shaking his great great nieces hand.
Shyly Lia replied with a simple “You too.”before stepping backward.
“Now, Lia and Jake will show you around.” she said looking at uncleThomas. “Now!”
The children nodded and motioned their uncle and aunt to explore the house.
Lia followed behind her brother walking next to her uncle. His crooked smile and broken teeth spoke to Lia. She knew he was different.
One Month LaterThe piercing noise of the phone ringing awoke Lia.
“Who calls at 3:00 a.m in the morning?”she heard her mother groan. “Hello?”said Joyce weakly into the telephone. There was a silence. “What do you mean?”another silence. “O.K see you tomorrow.” the noise of the phone being slammed onto the receiver echoed through the house. Lia slid out of bed tip toed over to the door and pressed her ear against the door. She heard her parents conversing. After about three minutes she heard her mother said “Go wake Jake and Lia tell them to pack. Oh and say its urgent.”
'There were footsteps approaching the door, Lia scrambled back to bed. She heard a voice. Lia get up, your uncle Thomas is sick. We are going to see him right away in Boston Massachusetts.
MassachusettsThe family burst in to hospital. Scarfs, coats, hats where piled on. It was ten degrees below and the warm air of the hospital melted the icicles that seemed to be hanging from their ears.
They approached the desk. Behind, stood a short and stocky man.
“Who ya lookin' for?” He said with a very rich Boston accent.
“Thomas Jackson,” said Joyce frantically.
“Oh, he's in room 164 on this floor. Down there,” he said pointing a rough finger towards the farthest hallway.
The family set of to room 164, praying Uncle Thomas would be okay.
“Mother,” began Lia, “what exactly happened to Uncle Thomas? You never made it clear.”
He mother hesitated, “heart attack,” she said finally.
There was an awkward silence.
“Room 164,” said her father gruffly.
He turned toward a door decorated with World War II medals including a bright and shinny, glittering Purple Heart.
“He was in the War?” exclaimed Jake and Lia in unison.
“Yes,” retorted their mother. “I am pretty sure I have told you both before. And, before you ask, yes he was shot in battle. That's why there is a Purple Heart hanging on the door.”
“Okay. Okay. Sorry,” said Jake.
Their father gently pulled open the door. The all-too familiar wheel chair sat in the corner. And there he was. No smile. No grin. No expression. His eyes were closed and a snore came out of his mouth.
Aunt Peg then emerged from the bathroom. “Shh,” she whispered. “He is sleeping. He will be up later. He is not doing too well. I don't think he has much left in him.”
Lia caught a glance of her mother. A single tear slid down her face.
Back Home in Minnesota - Ten Days Later“What do you mean dead?” Joyce cried. “He was so enthusiastic. How?”
Kayla and Jessica were outside again. They were startled at the noise of Joyce's cry. Lia ran out of her bedroom. “Uncle Thomas? He died?”
Her sobbing mother nodded and embraced her in a tight hug. “Aunt Peg is devastated. We are going back to Boston,” she sniffed.
Lia wiped her eyes. “I understand,” she said.
Funeral – February 12, Boston, MassachusettsLia's hair was curled and her boots were covered in snow. She darted into the church beside her mother. About 100 friends and family members were crowded into the small lobby.
“Attention,” yelled a tiny man in a black suit. His voice was quite squeaky. “The service is about the begin.”
The funeral ended in tears and applause. Lia did not quite understand much about what the priest was saying. But, she was touched anyway. And, she was pretty sure that Jake was, too.
Christmas – One Year LaterThis year, the ham did not burn. There were more presents. More singing. More laughing. But, no Uncle Thomas. And to Lia, it just wasn't the same.
“Lia, your Aunt Peg is leaving,” called Joyce, her mother.
“Okay,” Lia called back. She glided out of her bedroom. She went into the living room to say goodbye to the lady who helped Uncle Thomas get through his last few years of life.
Great Aunt Peg.