A Very Virna Christmas
By Virginia Carraway Stark
This short story is from my universe of Carnival Fun. Virna Grant is my alter ego, who I feel I would be if I gave into my every weakness and flaw. The Novel Carnival Fun has also been performed as a play and has received attention to be made into a movie as well.
It’s always hard to say what will happen in Virna’s world though and everything is seen through the twisted spectre of funhouse mirrors.
You can find out more about this and other worlds at www.starklightpress.com and www.gafmainframe.com as well as finding Starklight Press on Facebook and at www.ihavememory.wordpress.com
The cookies were definitely a little burned around the edges, especially the Christmas trees.
This was a consequence of trying to do things myself.
I had let the help off for Christmas this year. Well, Bruce had let them off. The truth wasn’t that he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart (although the bonus he gave them made up for his self-serving motives in my opinion), but that he wanted to have a party with Eric and their ‘alternative’ friends and didn’t want too much gossip to get around town after the brandy and eggnog started to flow and people forgot that they weren’t supposed to be couples.
I hadn’t thought twice about the idea when my husband had first brought up the idea and I was happy to brush off my dusty home maker skills to have a Christmas dinner and all the goodies made by myself. Eric had offered to help me with the baking but then he and Bruce had gone to decorate the sitting room and decorate the tree. The servants had brought the large Donner pine in before being dismissed for the holiday. They would return New Year’s Eve when they would orchestrate a more traditional and public party- and of course help us clean up from Christmas. By my calculations we should all be recovered from Bruce’s party but the house would doubtless still be a disaster.
Disaster wasn’t quite the word for my gingerbread cookies. They weren’t firm at the edges like how I thought they should be and they kind of trailed off in a vague way. The word ‘puddle’ stirred distressingly in my mind. The were Christmas tree puddles, and they looked like they had only barely survived a forest fire from the singes. Icing would cover it up and Bruce and Eric and their friends probably wouldn’t notice that they weren’t perfect if I brought them out later in the night…
Then it occurred to me.
I would be spending the entire party fetching trays, getting hot and sweaty and being utterly ignored by almost everyone. It was too much to bear and I felt my skin prickling with anger and my lips purse.
I stormed out of the kitchen and then remembered I didn’t have anything to drink and so I stormed back in and poured myself a small glass of cherry brandy and drank it. My skin prickling faded as the healthier flush of the booze took over. I steadied myself by pouring another glass. I searched through some drawers for some pills to take as a chaser.
I felt better as the warmth of the pills spread through me with the brandy and I stormed out of the kitchen with a clearer idea of how I would distribute my frustration at being so insultingly put into the role of servant to my husband and his gay lover. What was I thinking?
I hadn’t been thinking and neither had been Bruce and Eric. W were all just feeling frustrated by being so inhibited and wanted to be with some of the people who also hid their lifestyle choices to please their parents, get inheritances or just fit in with society. None of us had been thinking and now I was stuck with being the Martha of the Christmas party. I found Bruce and Eric adjusting a garland in the living room and I threw myself down on the divan with my drink, glowering at them while Bruce hopped down from the ladder and came over to give me a kiss on the cheek.
“Whatever you’re doing in the kitchen, it smells delicious, my dear.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen, I haven’t done anything except heat up soup in the kitchen or make some toast for about a year.”
“Well, it must be a nice change then to have the place to yourself.”
I pouted but I wasn’t quite up to throwing a full tantrum yet. Eric finished what he was doing and took my glass from my hand, sniffed it and then refilled it with more cherry brandy and kissed my forehead as he gave it to me. His eyes were filled with the knowledge of why I was upset even though Bruce was still happily oblivious to my potential tantrum.
That was part of the problem. I liked Eric. In some ways I liked him even more than I liked Bruce. We had conversations that would last all night sometimes while Bruce would be more interested in going out for a jog or playing sports or doing his own researches. Bruce was happy being Bruce and I was not happy being me and only Eric seemed to see anything of how I was feeling in all this.
How wonderful it had seemed to be given so much freedom in a marriage, to be able to give my affections to anyone I wanted, so long as we kept the gossip down to a minimum of course, to not have a husband who was interested in me physically but only in my intellect and my company and my presence on his arm. It was hard not to have someone look at me the way Bruce and Eric looked at each other. This soiree of their was making me even more of the third wheel that I really and truly was in this ridiculous parody of a marriage.
“The servants already gossip, who cares what they say. Call them back and make them do this. I don’t want to.”
Bruce looked at me in bewilderment and Eric studiously adjusted some ornaments in a box.
“Virna, you aren’t making any sense. We can’t have this sort of gossip going around town. The firm would be sure to hear about it and they might even take it seriously.”
I folded my arms. “Well, then call the party off. I don’t want a party.”
“Well, I do want a party and the invitations have gone out and the R.S.V.P’s returned.”
His tenderness had turned off like a switch and he was irritated with me. His mouth was doing that pouting thing that some days made me feel like holding him like he was my own small child and other times made me feel like punishing him into a less self-indulgent man.
Today was the a case of the latter.
Eric turned back to us. He opened his mouth and closed it. I wished he would just talk. He was often so shy and I knew that he was in an even worse position in many ways than I was.
Eric was a lawyer with another firm and while Bruce was secure as a married man, Eric was still a bachelor and older than Bruce. With his gentle manners and quiet voice he had only his dignity to stave off the gossip that inevitably circulated about unmarried men who weren’t frequently seen with pretty young things dangling off of their arms. He maintained an apartment where he ‘lived’ separately but he only used the place when he was forced to entertain. Eric didn’t really have a life of his own, he was more like me in that way, just a satellite orbiting Bruce’s life. Wee both only influencing the tides while he held us in his gravity.
I drank my cherry brandy and wondered how much I was willing to fight with Bruce about the party.
“It’s not really fair to expect Virna to handle all of the catering, Bruce. There were a lot more RSVPs than any of us expected. Perhaps we could ask Brian and Jeffrey to help out. They are more than sympathetic and they both love to cook.”
Bruce was annoyed with me and I could see that he had a moment of sheer rejection of the idea and then Eric put a gently hand on Bruce’s shoulder, one finger gently tracing along his hairline. I watched the tension drain from Bruce and he smiled and nodded.
“Sure, sure, give them a call, there’s no reason not to,” Bruce kissed my cheek and went back to his garland. Eric gave me a wink and returned to helping Bruce.
I finished my brandy in a swig and decided that I could still feel up to decorating the cookies when they cooled. I thought it would be a long stretch to see that I felt included but at least I didn’t feel ostracized.
I would call Brian and see if he and Jeffrey could help out. They were nice and I got along with Brian’s wife who was in a similar position to me but had been doing it for much longer. Anna had a stream of seemingly younger and younger men on her arm every time I saw her. I thought I’d be up to making some eggnog too- my own Mother’s recipe- she had had her cross to bear in life as well although it was much different from my own. I could still recall her serenely drinking it with pale hands that trembled even though her lips smiled.
Bruce and Eric were my family and it was Christmas. My own pale fingers trembled withn the cherry brandy and its small yellow chasers and the pent up tears that I had no right to shed. There were beautiful presents for me under the tree and my husband loved me, even if he had never loved me. Really, I had nothing to complain about as I made my face serene and stirred the nutmeg into the eggnog.
Virginia Carraway Stark is a Canadian author and screenwriter who lives in British Columbia, Canada. Her scripts have been made into movies (BlindEYE and Truth and Wine) and online podcasts (Candid Shots of the VPD). Virginia has written several dozen well-researched blog articles about cutting edge biochemistry and health topics for wellness websites and pubmed.com. In addition, she promotes the remarkable turnaround of the African country Rwanda with My Rwandaful Blog, where she educates readers about everything from mountain gorillas to murderous lakes.
Currently, Virginia is editor in chief at StarkLight Press, a leading Canadian publishing house devoted to science and speculative fiction. She promoted her new novel, Dalton’s Daughter, as well as her short story anthology Tales from Space, at VCON (Vancouver Science Fiction Convention) this year to great acclaim. In addition to introducing VCON audiences to her alien race the Gendlers, Virginia also picked up her Aurora Award Nominee Pin.
Both aforementioned works center around the Galactic Armed Forces Science Fiction Universe, the immersive and open-ended worldscape loved by fans all over the world. Virginia Carraway Stark is co- creator of this universe, and co-editor of its online incarnation the GAF Mainframe.
Virginia has also written stories for StarkLight Volumes 1, 2 and 3. These fascinating anthologies compile the winners of StarkLight Press’ short story contests, which are open to first time, fresh authors from all over the world.
In between writing projects, Virginia finds time to record excerpts from StarkLight Press’ catalogue on YouTube and runs online writing and poetry workshops. She resides with her husband in the country, where they are surrounded by several dogs, waterfowl and a small herd of goats.