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A Lot Like Christmas: Chapter One

by sasha_bumble_bee


It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I really can't believe it, even though I have to. I sit on the front steps in the biting wind, the cold stone feeling wet as it seeps through my leggings. I know that Genevieve will get here first, what with Aspen probably having to pack seven more outfits, and Zeke's brother probably threatening to throw up at any minute.

I have to believe it.

Genevieve gets out of the car, and I run to her. We're the same size, but she sweeps me off my feet, anyway - she's always had more energy than me. She says something that sounds like, "Molly, I missed you so much!" and I might've replied, but I'm not sure because, all of a sudden, I'm on the ground, and Genevieve is leaning over me, and my vision is getting dimmer, and then my mom is there, and then, and then...

Then I am finally, finally asleep.

~~~

"Gee, look at those dark circles - Noe, has she been sleeping?"

Genevieve.

"I think so; she hasn't been waking me up, but, I mean, I don't really know."

I crack open my eyes. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night."

Noelle, my sister (older by only ten months), reaches to help me sit up, her eyes narrowed.

"Moll, how little is 'not a lot?'"

"I don't know - not a lot?"

"Molly."

"None," I answer, sheepishly. I see Noelle's dark eyes roll as she throws her hands up in a gesture of exasperation. My eyes slip to Genevieve's green ones, which are soft and concerned. "I know I need to sleep, Genna---it's not like I don't try."

Genevieve cracks a smile, although her eyes are still worried. "You'd better sleep while I'm here, or I'll get Zeke's mom to send me some barbital, and then you'll have to."

"Noted," I laugh. Zeke's mom's a pharmacist, but she would never send Genevieve barbital just to knock me out at night---she would never send Genevieve barbitol, period. "Have you gotten any texts from Aspen or Zeke?"

Genevieve snorts. "Yeah---Aspen will be here in about an hour or so, but Zeke's going to get here later than expected. His brother's actually come down with the stomach flu and his mom has to go get him an IV 'cause he can't keep any fluids in him."

"Solomon?! Actually sick? No way!"

"Yes, way!"

I stand up, and Genevieve takes my hand as we walk down the stairs. Noelle follows behind us, calling out to my mom, "Molly's awake now---she's fine. Can we decorate cookies?"

"Sure, they're on the coffee table, hon!"

Noelle asks me to get the decorating supplies, but I loiter at the door to the kitchen, watching my sister and my best friend. Noelle doesn't even have to motion for her to sit on the sofa---Genevieve plops down, and stretches way out, her long legs reaching down the length of the couch. It's as if she never moved. She fits in so comfortably with everything in the living room, the sofas and the Christmas tree and the coffee table and Noelle. They don't think anyone's watching them, and Genevieve actually gets up, sits next to Noelle, and rests her head on her shoulder. They're sisters, I think, just as much as Noelle and I are sisters. I watch as Genevieve's blonde hair mingles with Noelle's brown waves, and I sigh, reminded of a time when this was more normal. When I didn't have to go months at a time to see honey locks mix with a chocolate stream.

"Molly?"

I turn around. "Yeah, mom?"

She looks at me gently for a moment before wrapping me in a warm hug that smells like sugar cookies and ginger snaps. "It's gonna be alright, Molly," she says into my hair. I'm not sure why she says it, but some little ache inside me responds, and my eyes start to water, and before I know it, I'm saying, "I'm not sure it will."

"It will, Molly. You're gonna be alright." I want to believe her, so I nod, and wipe my eyes on her shirt. She doesn't mind.

"Molly?" It's Noelle. "Did you fall into Wonderland? Genevieve says she'll eat me if we don't decorate these cookies!"

Mom chuckles, lets me go, hands me the tray of decorations, and kisses me on the head as she propels me into the living room. "Don't you go and eat my eldest, Genevieve! I don't know what I'd do without my two girls---they balance each other out."

Genevieve laughs and moves over a bit to give me room on the sofa in between herself and Noelle. As we begin to decorate, Noelle asks, "so, what are you two planning on doing with Aspen and Esther?"

"Zeke---Noe. Zeke."

"Right. Sorry. Zeke."

We sit in a very awkward silence for a few seconds before Genevieve decides to respond to the question as though Noelle's name slip never happened. "I think we're going to be doing a lot of shopping in Havelock Village---getting gifts for each other and all that." I think I have everything figured out. It's really easy to shop for Aspen and Molly, but Zeke and you are more difficult."

"Phoey! I'm not difficult!" protests Noelle, flicking sprinkles at Genevieve and earning a warning glance from Mom. "Just get me more makeup and I'm set!"

We all laugh. Noelle's daily application of incredibly red lipstick had become routine in our family, and she saved the crazy eye-shadow jobs for special occasions and other people. One day, she hoped to go cosmetics school and get a job doing makeup for movies.

"Well, Zeke's really difficult," Genevieve says, finishing her fourth perfect cookie. "I never know what to get him! Usually I just end up buying him t-shirts, but since I already always get clothes for Aspen, it seems kind of unoriginal. I wish I could do what you always do, Molly!"

I blush. Every Christmas and birthday since we'd met, I'd always given everyone the same gift (although these gifts had gotten considerably better over time). I was compiling a cook book, and every time there was an occasion where someone was to be given a gift, I would create a recipe that they would enjoy and that would remind everyone of them. The early recipes in the book were virtually inedible and were written by Mom, since I hadn't yet learned to write. They progressed into my awful five-year-old handwriting and were mostly sprinkles on toast until I actually began to cook things. It was a fun tradition---everyone knew what I was going to give them (food), but no one knew what kind of food they'd be getting.

"Sounds fun. I might be doing a little gift shopping, myself..." Noelle ends the sentence with a wink and a mischievous grin, and I feel myself smile. There was no reason in the world to worry right now. There was nothing that could conceivably go wrong. I had Genevieve. I had Noelle (on her best behavior because of Christmas). Pretty soon, I would have Aspen and Zeke. It was like mom said. It was all gonna be okay.

I was gonna be okay.


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Tue Sep 24, 2019 1:20 am
Carlito wrote a review...



Hello!! I'm here to review as requested! Also, welcome to YWS!! We're happy to have you :D

A Christmas-themed story!! It's been a while since I read something like this. How fun!
Right off the bat I liked the family relationship you've started to show here. I read so many stories where there's a tragic family backstory or the parents are horrible for some reason or the parents just aren't around for some reason, so I liked that the mom at least is present and seems nice and fun. Same with the sisters. I enjoyed that so far everyone is getting along and they all seem to have a nice, sweet dynamic. I thought the little bit at the end of her describing the cook book gift was super cute!

I have a few suggestions to help you take this to the next level. First, in opening chapters the goal is to introduce the characters and set up the plot. In terms of introducing the characters, I think you introduced too many. There were a lot of names flying around and I wasn't super clear on who was who and who was related and who I needed to pay attention to. I think for this opening chapter, maybe just mention the protagonist and her family members. And when you introduce us to them, show them to us rather then telling us about them (which will bring me into the second point).

Setting up the plot. There are some interesting little nuggets in there. Like at the end when you say that everything is going to be okay, that makes me think that everything is NOT going to be okay :p But I was a little confused, at the beginning she couldn't believe it but we never figured out what she couldn't believe, and then she passed out, and then she decorated cookies and prepared to go shopping. You don't have to fully introduce us to the main conflict, but I want at least a taste of it in this chapter. What's the problem that the protagonist is going to have to face?

I have a feeling this is going to be a cute story (unless you surprise me and she finds a dead body or something in the next chapter :p), and I like cute!! I read too much gritty stuff :p I'm curious to know how all of this is going to develop!

I'll hop on over to the next chapter, but in the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like feedback about something I didn't mention! :D




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Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:12 pm
Em16 says...



Hey sasha_bumble_bee! I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of your novel. I love the complex relationships you have already set up, and the suspense surrounding the main character. I want to know why she’s not “ok”. That said, there are a few things I am confused about. Who are Zeke and Aspen? What is their relationship with the main character? They are mentioned a lot, so I assume they are friends, but how did they become friends? I would also like to know where Molly lives normally. I assume she doesn’t live at home, that she’s only coming home for the holidays, but is she a college student? Or does she have a job? If she has a job, what is her job? I think knowing those things would really help me understand the story some more.
I like the way you mention “Esther”, and the reaction Molly has when she is mentioned. It’s a good use of foreshadowing. However, I would like a little more detail about Esther. It’s almost too vague to be enticing. I don’t know anything about what Esther did, or even when, and I also am confused about why she is mentioned in connection with Aspen. If Aspen and Zeke are associated with whatever bad memories Molly has of Esther, why does she still hang out with them? Just a little more detail about Esther and Aspen would make the story even more interesting.
It also seems a little strange to me how cheerful the story is. While they are decorating cookies Molly, Noelle and Genevieve seem perfectly happy, which is a strange contrast to the hidden undertones that Molly is not ok. With her friends, she seems perfectly ok. Is there any way you could make their interaction a little sadder, a little more bittersweet?
Also, on a side note, I’m sensing a little romance between Noelle and Genevieve, especially when they sit next to each other and Genevieve puts her head on Noelle’s shoulder. I know you say they are only sisters, but I do get the slightest hint that there is something more. Is that intentional?
This was a great piece and I’m excited to read more. I want to see if Molly really does end up ok.




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Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:12 pm
Em16 says...



Hey sasha_bumble_bee! I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of your novel. I love the complex relationships you have already set up, and the suspense surrounding the main character. I want to know why she’s not “ok”. That said, there are a few things I am confused about. Who are Zeke and Aspen? What is their relationship with the main character? They are mentioned a lot, so I assume they are friends, but how did they become friends? I would also like to know where Molly lives normally. I assume she doesn’t live at home, that she’s only coming home for the holidays, but is she a college student? Or does she have a job? If she has a job, what is her job? I think knowing those things would really help me understand the story some more.
I like the way you mention “Esther”, and the reaction Molly has when she is mentioned. It’s a good use of foreshadowing. However, I would like a little more detail about Esther. It’s almost too vague to be enticing. I don’t know anything about what Esther did, or even when, and I also am confused about why she is mentioned in connection with Aspen. If Aspen and Zeke are associated with whatever bad memories Molly has of Esther, why does she still hang out with them? Just a little more detail about Esther and Aspen would make the story even more interesting.
It also seems a little strange to me how cheerful the story is. While they are decorating cookies Molly, Noelle and Genevieve seem perfectly happy, which is a strange contrast to the hidden undertones that Molly is not ok. With her friends, she seems perfectly ok. Is there any way you could make their interaction a little sadder, a little more bittersweet?
Also, on a side note, I’m sensing a little romance between Noelle and Genevieve, especially when they sit next to each other and Genevieve puts her head on Noelle’s shoulder. I know you say they are only sisters, but I do get the slightest hint that there is something more. Is that intentional?
This was a great piece and I’m excited to read more. I want to see if Molly really does end up ok.




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Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:12 pm
Em16 wrote a review...



Hey sasha_bumble_bee! I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of your novel. I love the complex relationships you have already set up, and the suspense surrounding the main character. I want to know why she’s not “ok”. That said, there are a few things I am confused about. Who are Zeke and Aspen? What is their relationship with the main character? They are mentioned a lot, so I assume they are friends, but how did they become friends? I would also like to know where Molly lives normally. I assume she doesn’t live at home, that she’s only coming home for the holidays, but is she a college student? Or does she have a job? If she has a job, what is her job? I think knowing those things would really help me understand the story some more.
I like the way you mention “Esther”, and the reaction Molly has when she is mentioned. It’s a good use of foreshadowing. However, I would like a little more detail about Esther. It’s almost too vague to be enticing. I don’t know anything about what Esther did, or even when, and I also am confused about why she is mentioned in connection with Aspen. If Aspen and Zeke are associated with whatever bad memories Molly has of Esther, why does she still hang out with them? Just a little more detail about Esther and Aspen would make the story even more interesting.
It also seems a little strange to me how cheerful the story is. While they are decorating cookies Molly, Noelle and Genevieve seem perfectly happy, which is a strange contrast to the hidden undertones that Molly is not ok. With her friends, she seems perfectly ok. Is there any way you could make their interaction a little sadder, a little more bittersweet?
Also, on a side note, I’m sensing a little romance between Noelle and Genevieve, especially when they sit next to each other and Genevieve puts her head on Noelle’s shoulder. I know you say they are only sisters, but I do get the slightest hint that there is something more. Is that intentional?
This was a great piece and I’m excited to read more. I want to see if Molly really does end up ok.




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Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:25 pm
Elinor wrote a review...



Hey Sasha!

My name is Elinor, and I thought I would drop by to give you a quick review. I love the concept of this and think it can make for a really interesting story. I'm not sure if I yet see the full novel here, but perhaps the story is headed in a direction I'm not expecting, in which case I'm very interested.

I was a little confused as to what the narrator's name was, if it was dropped at all? You drop a few names, Genevieve, Molly, Noelle, but if I'm not mistaken they are all her sisters? They're also introduced so quickly it's hard to keep track of who is who. I think a little bit clarity would definitely help you in this regard. Maybe you have the narrator arrive home, and introduce her family one by one?

I want to know a little bit more about her. Why she left, the circumstances behind her coming back for the holidays. You mention in the description they're bigoted. Or at least, the town is. Even if we don't see it right away, it could be hinted at. You mention that this is an especially anxiety inducing event for her and the audience doesn't fully understand why.

I did enjoy this though! I'm intrigued by the story you want to tell and think there's potential in it. Keep writing! Please feel free to tag me when you post future parts!

Cheers,
Elinor




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Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:59 am
Asith wrote a review...



Hello! Welcome to the site! I have to say, this was an excellent chapter, and your work will definitely fit in well here. I like where the story is going, and I also really like your characters, which is very important in stories like this :)
I'll leave some general critique at the end, but first, here's some notes I jotted down while reading:

"I sit on the front steps in the biting wind, the cold stone feeling wet as it seeps through my leggings."

I think what you're trying to say here is that the moisture seeped through her leggings? The way the sentence is worded makes it sound as if the stone itself was entering her leggings. That's confused pronoun referencing; you've misjudged what the word "it" references in the sentence. Watch out for confusion like this! A quick, blind re-read of everything should help you catch them :)

"Genevieve gets out of the car, and I run to her."

When did the car appear? You really ought to talk about it arriving; it's the logical sequence of events, and throws off the reader if you reference something that turned up without actually talking about it turning up.

One thing I'd like to mention about the main character suddenly falling asleep is that it feels too unexpected. Yes, it's supposed to be unexpected, especially to the characters, but the reader generally shouldn't be left blind to the main character's mind. If she's that tired, then it would be worth slyly referencing her fatigue in the first paragraph. Even something almost insignificant could go a long way, like saying that the biting wind kept her mind off her sleepiness. The reader is supposed to understand the main character in a first person story!


I'd like to commend you on the bit of dialogue presented as Molly wakes up. It gives us some very nice character work while feeling entirely natural, so kudos!

"I watch as Genevieve's blonde hair mingles with Noelle's brown waves, and I sigh, reminded of a time when this was more normal. When I didn't have to go months at a time to see honey locks mix with a chocolate stream."

I love this bit so much!

""Zeke---Noe. Zeke."

"Right. Sorry. Zeke."

We sit in a very awkward silence for a few seconds before Genevieve decides to respond to the question as though Noelle's name slip never happened."

Hmm, I'm not quite sure what to make of this. There seems to be some significance to Noe confusing Zeke's name with "Esther", but as a reader, I'm still entirely lost as to what the significance is. It's nice to create some intrigue -- I'm already theorising :P -- but with absolutely no real clues, the seemingly important moment just loses all its effect on me.


I really like the ending! It's a nice pseudo-conclusion; it gives us an ending to this chapter while keeping us wanting more. The bit about the cookbook was some more wonderfully executed character-work :)


To recap, I think you've got a good thing going here, and you're clearly a good writer. Your strengths seem to lie in your character work, so I think you should 1) focus on that, and 2) look up what makes great character work great. After all, a good blade still needs to be sharpened! You might want to put more thought into the way you pace events, and the way you influence the reader's mind. Those are both important keys to good storytelling!
I hope to read more :D



(Btw, I've never personally seen triple hyphens (---) used to represent Em dashes, I've only seen double hyphens, but that may just be me)






Thanks so much! The constructive criticism was very helpful, and I hope I can improve my writing accordingly :)

~Yorrick




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