Merry Christmas

by Tammy A. Branom

Chris parked his van outside his soon-to-be ex-wife’s apartment.  He glanced back at the two small children in the backseat.  Red Christmas lights blinked on and off, flashing over the kids’ faces.  Turning back to watch her door, he checked his pocket, and then tapped his finger on the steering wheel.

“Merry fucking Christmas” he muttered under his breath.  Sighing, Chris closed his eyes.  No tears would come tonight, nor would any happiness.  In his heart, he still loved Lynn.  He couldn’t help that she didn’t understand him–she didn’t understand how jealous he was if she talked to someone else, or if someone looked at her.  He didn’t mean to hurt her; he just couldn’t bear to lose her.  She was his.  Forever and ever, till death do they part.  That was what they swore to each other.

Light streamed across the sidewalk as Lynn stepped outside.  Chris sucked in a deep breath.  He hated this.  How dare she do this to him, especially during the holidays?  His family would ask questions for sure; questions he didn’t want to answer.  His grandmother would definitely scold him as if he was a child.

How dare his wife embarrass him like this?

Lynn tapped on the window.  At first, Chris didn’t move.   He didn’t want to look at her.  His face flushed hot and he turned to the window, exhaling a long, hot breath onto the glass that hazed her features with fog.

Lynn balled her hands onto her hips.  “Damn it, Chris.  Don’t be like this.  It’s Christmas Eve.”

Slowly, he wound down the window.  “Have you changed your mind?” he asked, his voice monotone, his brow crunched together into a deep V.

“I’m sorry, Chris.”  Lynn bit her lip.  “But, no, I haven’t.”

His shoulders sagged.  “I miss you,” he whimpered.  “And I love you.  You know that, right?”

She hung her head and kicked at pebbles in the street.  “I know.  I miss you, too.”

“Come home, Lynn.  Let’s work this out—for the kids.”  He smiled, tilted his head, and gave her his best lost-puppy-dog eyes.  “I can change.”

Lynn squinted and she pursed her lips.  “And how many times have you told me that one?”

“But, it’s different this time.  I’ll change.  I promise.”  Chris threw up his right hand, holding three fingers together.  “Scout’s honor.”

Lynn stood silent, staring at Chris.  A tear burned her eye, and she wiped it away before it had the chance to show her heart.  “I’m sorry, Chris.  I can’t take it any longer.  I can’t take the bruises and broken bones anymore.”

Chris slinked back into the seat.  “So, that’s how it is, huh?”  His head dipped forward like a dog about to attack.  “So, who you fucking?”

“Nobody!”  Lynn slammed her hand against the side of the van.  “See?  This is the kind of shit out of you that I’m talking about.”

“Right.”  Teeth clenched, Chris glanced back at the two children asleep in the backseat.  “I love my kids, Lynn.  And I love you.”

“Whatever, Chris.  Give me the kids and you can be on your way to wherever you want to go tonight.”  She pulled the handle on the sliding door.  It didn’t budge.  “Chris.  Open the damn door.”

He didn’t look at her, but instead glimpsed back to the children.  “Little Joshy won’t remember all this.  He’s too young.  But, Candi—she might.  I can remember things when I was her age.” Turning back, Chris fiddled with his coat pocket.  Lynn eyed his moves, her face reddening,  nostrils flaring.  “Don’t ignore me, Chris,” she warned.  He slowly turned his head to her, his jaw slack, his eyes intense.  He made no move to let her in the van.

Lynn put her face to the window.  “Did you hear me?  I said open the damn door so I can get the kids!”  Her eyes widened as she saw the glint of steel, and she twisted away to run.  In a flurry, Chris stuck the pistol out the window and fired. The bullet pierced through one side of her neck and out the other.  The crack woke the children and both started screaming.  Chris leaned out the window. He watched Lynn’s limp body slide down the side of the van and flop in a heap on the street. 

“‘Till death do us part, baby.”  He put the pistol barrel to his temple.  “Merry fucking Christmas.”


Tammy A. Branom still lives, works, and writes on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  On December 24, 1983, a man who looked like Jesus shared the Word; unfortunately, it wasn’t the word she wanted to hear.
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