Enter the Darkness
Chapter 3: Ein erquickend Weihnacht (A Refreshing Christmas)

Copyright© 2011 by Celtic Bard

December, 1984

I only know what happened next because Anika and Janine sat on my hospital bed with shining eyes and told me in hormonally sharp detail. My "gorgeous, handsome hunk" of a dad came running back with them, pistol in hand. It took them a while to convince the adults in my grandparents' house that I was in trouble. My dad, always worried about me anyway, got his gun out of its travel case when Janine impressed upon them that the boys came armed and maniacal. They were all on their way back when they saw me fall. All of the boys had their weapons raised for the final blow when my father shot his gun at a nearby tree. They boys turned in shock to stare down the barrel of my daddy's Berretta.

My Aunt Sabrine had called the police and they were already there with an ambulance when I regained consciousness. It was enough like when my mother died that the first thing I did was scream at the top of my lungs for my daddy. He appeared like magic at the opened back doors of the ambulance in which I was laying. He clambered in and hugged me carefully, still jarring my skull and right arm enough that I passed out again from the pain.

I was being poked and prodded by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man with black-framed glasses. He had a stethoscope in his ears and a white lab coat over scrubs. His hands were soft, though firm, as he kneaded my head. As soon as he moved my splinted right arm I yelped, causing him to jump and smiled down at me.

"I will assume that means that hurt," he said, taking the end of the stethoscope and breathing on it before placing it under my shirt. "Your arm is definitely broken and you have a concussion. You will be staying here for a day or so. I want to run more tests to make sure it is just a concussion. Your father is just outside. I will send him in in a second. How is your vision?"

I frowned and stopped the automatic answer that popped to the tip of my tongue before I could actually think about the question. After a second's thought, I noticed things were a little blurry and lopsided. I told the doctor and that made him frown.

"You will be here a few days. I definitely want you kept under observation until some of the symptoms you are exhibiting recede," he told me in almost incomprehensible medical lingo.

He left and before the door could close, daddy walked in with Grandma and Aunt Sabrine. He looked unsure of where to put his hands and he grinned at me sheepishly. "I want to give you another hug, but Dr. Stewart warned me against jarring your head or arm," he said with a worried smile. "They are going to bring in a wheelchair in a minute to take you down to orthopedics so that they can take x-rays and put a cast on your arm. Then they are going to admit you and get you into a gown for the night."

"Night?" I was suddenly alarmed. Last I checked it was barely mid-morning.

Daddy's face sobered as he nodded. "You passed out again in the ambulance. You have been out for a few hours and it is nearly dark."

My head began to hurt even more. "What happened to those boys? Why did they do that?" I asked in a soft voice, scared now unlike I was before.

"The police took them away," Aunt Sabrine answered fiercely.

Daddy nodded. "They won't tell the police who they are or who their parents are."

"And nobody in the neighborhood recognizes them so it is something of a mystery as to why they did what they did, Alexa," Grandma added in her kind voice, coming around to the other side of the bed to hold my left hand. She smiled a mischievous smile belonging to a much younger woman. "Until they know what is going on, the Oneida police are keeping a guard at your door."

My eyes widened at that, a little spurt of fear running through me in a shudder. "Is it that bad?" I whispered, barely loud enough for daddy to hear me and nod solemnly.

"One of the boys you beat up started cursing and swearing he was going to kill you," he replied, worry springing back up into his eyes. A sad smile curved his lips. "If I didn't know better, I would say it was something you did, but you have never seen these kids."

"Nobody has, Sean," Aunt Sabrine retorted, "that's the scariest part of all this. Kids just don't appear out of nowhere in Oneida without adult guardians of some kind. There is something very strange going on. It is almost as if one of the girls was being targeted deliberately."

"But why?" dad sighed, sounding as if this was a conversation that was picking up where it was interrupted. They must have been speculating since the police arrived. "None of us is important enough to attack our children over. If they were locals I would assume it was a schoolyard grudge or something of the sort, but they weren't. Even Anika's friend Janine isn't really important enough to harm, despite what her father does. Trust me, I know what it takes to have something like this happen to a family. I have seen it before. And they would have sent adults with guns, not teenage boys with clubs."

It was a vague enough statement that I knew daddy was talking about his work. I was going to ask a question but my head had started hurting again during the conversation and I slowly faded away again. The last thing I remember was the warm, steady pressure of my grandmother's hand squeezing mine. It was very comforting as I passed out again.

Christmas was almost anti-climactic. Almost.

My stay in the hospital went quickly and was very worrisome. My dad came every day for several hours and practically had to be pried off my bed with a crowbar by the nurses. He took to wearing that look he had when he learned I had been fighting back in Missouri. My cousin and Janine thought it was so lucky of me because my doctor and one of the male nurses were soooo dreamy. Gag! I remember thinking, My hormones better never turn me into one of those kinds of girls!

Mickey, on the other hand, was properly worried and very sorry that she had run away with the others. Her guilt factor was pretty high for someone who just did what I told her to do. But nothing I could say would persuade her that she did the right thing. Much of the rest of my stay in Oneida was spent with her, when Anika was not around. To make up for her lack of courage (her words, not mine), she went out of her way to show me everything the town had to offer a couple of adventuresome tomboys.

But that was after a night being kept awake by nurses and four days of bed rest, a precaution against aggravating the concussion I had and to allow my broken arm, now in a very awkward cast bent at a right angle and starting just below my armpit, to begin knitting. I was allowed out of the hospital just in time to participate in the extended German Christmas rituals.

For Germans, Christmas is a three-day holiday that includes dinners at various relatives' houses, going to church a lot, and many different kinds of traditional, if not always very tasty, foods. And the plum people I could do without! Don't ask! It's complicated, German, and not fully understood by me. But aside from the less fun stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think it was probably the best Christmas I could remember. The presents that we mailed in Missouri arrived a few days before Christmas to a lot of cheers from the kids and a lot of "You shouldn't have's" from the adults. My grandparents' tree looked like Santa had arrived early and decided to just dump his entire sack under our tree and call it a year.

On Christmas morning, I was awakened by Anika and Jacob before the sun was up. They literally dragged me downstairs so we could sit in the dark to await the adults' rising. They warned us the night before when we were opening our Christmas Eve gift (another of those German traditions) that they were not getting up before eight. When my bleary eyes saw the lighted mantle clock ticking just past five, I climbed onto the couch and went back to sleep.

I was mightily pissed when I woke up to bright morning sunlight streaming through the windows and the gleeful shrieks of young boys as they tore through their presents. I blinked my eyes and frowned. Everybody was opening their presents and they hadn't woke me up to join the fun.

"Hey!" I bitched, pouting for all I was worth.

My father, carefully opening the present I wrapped myself to him, smiled at me. "We tried to wake you, pumpkin. The twins shook you almost off the couch. You wouldn't wake up," he protested, trying to be earnest. Earnest expressions never work with the corners of your mouth tugging upwards. "Are you feeling all right?"

I almost automatically said yes when my head began to ache. "Well, I have a bit of a headache. Jacob and Anika woke me up before five."

Aunt Sabrine frowned at her children, who looked properly contrite. "We told you to let her sleep," my aunt glowered. "Her body knows how much rest she needs to fix itself."

"But she went right back to sleep," Jacob protested.

"Yeah, we let her sleep," Anika added in support.

"It's all right, Aunt Sabrine," I mumbled, shambling into the kitchen behind my father to get the medicine the doctors gave me for the headaches and the pain in my left arm.

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