by Laramie Woolsey
Driving the familiar path to school, Amery looked out her window and watched a group of deer walking slowly through the snow. Amery was having a less than wonderful morning. It was late November and the roads were icy and the air was gray with fog. Christmas music was already making its way over the air waves and onto the radio, and decorations and lights seemed to cover every surface.
Most people seemed cheerful, eagerly awaiting the upcoming holidays. Amery, however, wasn’t one of these people. She didn’t like Christmas. She didn’t like the cheer in the air or the rose on her cheeks. Her hatred for reindeer and all things Christmas seemed to consume her as she drove, bundled up from head to toe. As if this time of year wasn’t bad enough for Amery, she had gotten in a fight with her brother. Normally they got along perfectly, but this morning the subject of Christmas gifts was broached.
“What do you want this year?” Tyler asked cheerfully as Amery poured herself coffee.
They were the only ones awake at this early hour. Their parents and siblings were still in bed, unaware of their conversation.
“You know I don’t want anything,” Amery replied quietly, twisting the ring on her finger.
It was the same thing every year. On Christmas they would wake up, sit in the living room together and unwrap what presents sat beneath their tiny Christmas tree. Amery’s family always refused to buy a dead tree and instead opted for tiny potted ones they could plant after the holidays were over. It always reminded Amery horribly of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree as it tilted under the weight of the decorations.
Although Amery’s family kept presents to a minimum, she couldn’t understand why they bothered with any gifts at all. She didn’t understand why they celebrated at all.
“Oh come on! You have to want something!” Tyler urged, pouring himself a cup of coffee as he smiled.
Tyler always seemed to become sick with the noxious cheer that floated on the air during the holidays. It always made Amery feel uneasy, and she wished there was some type of cure.
“I hate Christmas, Tyler. Can’t we just agree not to get each other anything?”
Tyler frowned and his cheery disposition seemed to melt away. “Of course not! It’s Christmas! I’m going to get you something!”
From there, the argument ensued. Their voices seemed to rise rapidly, neither willing to surrender their positions. Tyler couldn’t understand why Amery looked at Christmas with such disdain, and Amery continued to insist Tyler had become diseased with Christmas spirit and wasn’t looking at things logically. Eventually, they woke their siblings, who stumbled into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed, asking for an explanation. With one last disapproving look, Amery decided she would leave the explaining up to Tyler and left the house, realizing their debate had made her late for school.
So, Amery drove quickly along the winding, unpopulated roads, hoping she would still be able to find parking at the college. Suddenly, Amery’s phone began to buzz in her pocket. Unable to resist, she slid her hand into her pocket and opened her phone. She had received a text from her friend Ian. This was a normal occurrence. Ian was in the habit of texting her every morning around 7:00.
“Morning! How’s it going?” the text read.
Amery frowned in concentration. She kept one hand on the wheel and began to type a reply as she rounded a corner.
“Not very good. Tyler and I got in a fight about Christmas.” Amery hit the ‘send’ button and it wasn’t but 15 seconds later that Ian replied. He was a very quick texter. Amery normally was, but driving seemed to inhibit her from texting at normal speed.
“Why do you hate Christmas, anyway? I don’t get it,” Ian asked. Amery could practically hear his voice colored with curiosity.
“I hate people buying me stuff. It makes me feel guilty. I hate people spending ridiculous amounts of money on me. And I hate buying stuff for other people. I never know what to get them. Christmas is stupid. It’s all about material stuff,” Amery replied.
She continued to drive, passing another car, going nearly three times the speed it was. Her phone buzzed again and she read Ian’s reply, splitting her attention between her phone and the road.
“That’s not what it’s about at all. It’s about ‘good will towards men’ and family togetherness and all that stuff. I think that people just sometimes think they need the gifts to let people know they love each other. They seem to neglect the concept of just telling each other ‘I love you’ and buy each other gift cards instead.”
Amery took a minute to ponder what Ian said, and looked up at the road. Her eyes widened as she saw that a deer was standing directly in the middle of her lane. It was a huge deer, brown and white, with large antlers. It stood, staring Amery down, completely confident. Time seemed to slow, and Amery pondered her options.
Her parents always told her not to swerve for an animal because if you try to save the animal’s life, you might end up sacrificing your own, especially on winding roads that lay next to a cliff like the one she was on now. If she were to hit her brakes, she was sure she would slide around on the ice, and possibly slip over the edge of the road and tumble down the snowy bank.
But, could she really just hit the deer? Just run it over and hope for the best? The deer seemed completely untroubled. It just stood there, not even the slightest trace of fear in its large, dark, brown eyes. Amery was sure she looked quite the opposite.
She made her decision. She dropped her phone and clutched the wheel as she slammed her foot on the brake pedal and closed her eyes. She could feel herself spinning rapidly. A million thoughts flew through her head.
She thought of the fight she’d had this morning. She thought about her family that she woke with her forceful words. She thought about last Christmas and how they all sat around their tiny tree, handing each other neatly wrapped packages. Amery and her siblings had pooled together $400 to give to their parents, knowing they needed help with property taxes.
She had bought Tyler some seat covers he had really wanted for his truck but thought were too expensive. She gave her little sister, Mia, a new memory card for her camera, as she had been saying she wished she could take more pictures without having to delete the ones she had already taken. She got her brother Matt a part for his engine that he was having trouble finding.
She remembered looking down at the tiny package in her lap and feeling a pang of guilt. It was a gift that her whole family had chipped in to buy her. She unwrapped it slowly and found a ring. It was simple. Silver with rows of tiny fake diamonds. It was just like one she had been given years before and fallen in love with. It had been stolen a few months before that Christmas, and she had been devastated without it. Her family got her an exact replica. Amery had resolved it was the best gift she had ever been given.
Amery opened her eyes and realized she had stopped spinning. She had come to a stop in a turnout, facing the opposite direction of her destination, but unscathed. She looked down at her shaking hands and back out the window only to see the large deer from before. It looked at her curiously with those huge, hypnotic eyes, before bounding away into the snow.
Amery took a few steadying breaths as she watched the deer disappear among some trees. She looked to her ring finger to see the ring was still there, glittering innocently. Amery looked back toward the road and quietly took off in the direction she was pointed. Toward home. She drove much slower than before and watched the deer prance gracefully in the trees. She finally decided they weren’t so bad. And neither was this time of year.