We were planning this for years! It never worked, no matter how much we tried. Each year we would promise to celebrate Christmas together, but each year around Thanksgiving at least four of us would find an excuse. Maybe because neither of us ever forgot that fateful Christmas Eve party of 1981. We were in it together. We promised to stay in touch and we did, but we kept avoiding each other. And no one ever mentioned Ginny.
Occasionally one or two of us would accept an invitation to a wedding or to a birthday party. And each of us knew what the others were up to. But the whole gang never met together again. Until this year, that is. Thirty years later!
We rented a house near Aspen and booked our air tickets on time. We agreed to take our spouses with us, but the kids were to stay at home.
We all made it in life. Ron in Boston. Kira in New York. Bob's law firm was the best on the West Coast. Tom did well on Wall Street. Susan became a Governor of Texas. John decided to give a shot for the White House in the next elections. Chris directed the best Symphony Orchestra in the country. And my project won the prestigious 2011 Architectural Vision Award. Only Donna wasn't doing so well. Her company was under Congressional investigation and you could read about it for weeks in papers across the country. Even the British Financial Time mentioned the scandal. Heads would have to roll, they wrote, and we knew precisely whose head it was to roll first.
I guess, no one in the gang knew that John was cheating on Donna back then. They were to get married, but John could not resist temptation. Ginny was absolutely gorgeous and all the guys had eyes on her. But she was a taboo. Because of her father. There was even a rumor that she was a mistress of Senator Coldwell, but we did not believe it. Coldwell was a friend of her father. They both were running the political scene in Boston. We simply could not imagine that anyone would want to risk his career for a seventeen years old beauty. But after we found Ginny dead under the Christmas tree, I wasn't that sure anymore.
We were so stoned at that Christmas Eve party that neither of us could even give a coherent testimony to the cops investigating the crime. We smoked too much Mary Jane and the Christmas punch was stronger than it was supposed to be. It was pure booze with cloves and cinnamon. Ginny's time-tested recipe.
Poor Ginny was strangled that night and if she screamed for help, we did not even hear her. The music was too loud.
I remember that there were few other people in the house, but they left early. Ginny's parents were attending a Christmas reception at the Governor's house and all the servants were given a day off.
The police did not find any traces of an intruder and speculated that it must have been one of us. They could not prove anything, so Ginny's murder remained unsolved.
Things were never the same for us after that. A shadow of suspicion spread over our friendship. After the funeral we decided to never talk about Ginny again.
For years I suspected Donna, but never went to tell the cops. She was the jealous type. There wasn't a day that she would not make a scene. Eventually, John broke off their engagement and Donna moved to Chicago to live with her older sister. She told me that she wanted to get her degree there. I knew better.
* * *
My flight was delayed for another twenty minutes, but strangely, I was relaxed. I seldom traveled for pleasure and usually got very upset when my schedule got messed up. But today I was holding Jim's hand. He was still talking on the phone with his secretary. Last minute business had popped up unexpectedly.
The flight was quite pleasant, but I could not stop thinking about our reunion. Jim had met Susan and Ron before, and was a great fan of Chris, but I knew that his political views would collide with John's vision for the country. If we could only leave the politics out of our gathering!
I took a nap while Jim was reading his book. I don't know how long I have slept. I only knew that I had a nightmare. For the first time in years I found myself in Ginny's house. Drunk. Everybody was singing and dancing. I saw John disappearing with Ginny. Oh, no! He was the last person who have seen her alive. It occurred to me that this actually wasn't a dream. It was a memory that I repressed for years. I could even hear Ginny's laughter. John meant nothing to her. He was not a match to the man she was in love with.
I now clearly remembered that John reappeared from the library quite disheveled. Back then I thought that he just spent some exciting time with Ginny, when in fact, she was struggling with him. No sooner than he entered, Donna was all over him. I had another cup of punch. The next thing I remember was the scream. Susan had found Ginny under the Christmas tree. Ginny was lying there like an unwanted gift. Dead.
* * *
John probably will win the presidency. But what if he is a murderer? I need to talk to someone. Can anyone of them be trusted? Or shall I confront John? We were good friends back then...
Thirty years on and we still looked great! Everybody was already there when Jim and I finally arrived. Many new faces. Susan came with her second husband. Ron brought his dazzling new wife. Kira came with her lover. Tom finally married his college sweetheart, a prominent Boston lawyer whose name I could never remember. And freshly divorced Chris brought his new love Maureen. She was Irish and played first violin in his orchestra. Chris looked very happy. But when didn't he?
The house was fantastic! We had a large Christmas tree in the living room. And a fire place! Donna took care of the entire arrangement. An old friend of her was a real estate mogul in Colorado. He knew how to live in style. You could actually smell the money.
Everything seemed perfect. It wasn't very cold outside and all was set for the greatest Christmas Eve party ever. A five star catering company took care of our meals, while John provided the champagne. He was in the mood to celebrate. The primary campaigns were absolute success and everything looked like he would secure his party's nomination. The incumbent in the White House had no chance! Dom Pérignon for all!
Champagne helped us relax into a festive mood. We cracked old jokes and laughed at our past adventures. The music was loud and someone brought Mary Jane. Like in the old days! We smoked at the porch and drunk hot Christmas punch that wasn't as good as the one Ginny made years ago. All the years that separated us from that fateful day seemed to be forgotten and we were our old selves again.
Susan was making angels in the snow and everybody laughed. Ron was dancing with Kira. Jim mingled with the other spouses. I approached John and asked him to follow me into the house. No one seemed to have noticed that we disappeared from the porch. Standing next to the festive Christmas tree, his smile vanished when I told him that I knew he killed Ginny. If this ever came out he could forget the White House. The next thing I knew was that John was glaring at me, his hands around my neck. I could hear everybody sing my favorite Christmas song. Have yourself a merry little Christmas... La la la la la... I struggled. Unable to utter a sound, I saw my world disappear into a deep, scary blackness...
By Dominique Allmon
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas... by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Also of interest Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Mark Steyn.