Cardboard was all that stood between me and a trip to the ER.

This had sounded like a better idea before I stared at a hill littered with rocks, dry grass, and twigs capable of impaling my eyes. Why couldn’t the surface be swathed in fluffy, white snow?

Because my parents and California hated me, that’s why. But I was determined to give my little sister the Christmas she deserved, even if this was what I had to work with.

I wiped sweat from my face—seriously, an 80-degree heat wave in December, what was wrong with this place?—and turned to Addie.

“Ready?”

Her freckled face split into a grin. “Ready.”

I was determined to give my little sister the Christmas she deserved….

We pushed off. I clutched the flattened moving box as the cardboard skidded along. If we were on real sleds on snow, my butt wouldn’t feel every dip, every stone. I’d wear gloves and a coat, not sunscreen and shorts. Shorts I was regretting when I crashed into a bush at the bottom of the hill. A bush concealing cactus.

Addie whooped, and her echoing laughter made my pain fade as I plucked spines from my calves.

“Again, Grace?” My ten-year-old sister stood nearby, upright, not getting cozy with shrubbery.

For her, I’d land in a hundred cactuses. Cacti. Spiky death plants. Whatever.

“Of course, Addie.”

After three more trips, I was done. “Time for the next stop on our Christmas tour!”

We trekked a few blocks to the beach where we attacked the sand, then stepped back to study our efforts.

Our sandman stared at us from sunglasses over a seashell nose and mouth in a lumpy head that was nearly indistinguishable from its sandy body. Driftwood arms and a nose jutted at odd angles.

Addie propped a Santa hat on its head and draped a Gryffindor scarf around itsneck. Not that it really had a neck. This was so not the same.

“It looks like it’s melting.” Addie giggled, and I hated the creature a little less.

“Snow angels,” I announced.

We laid in the damp sand near the water and moved our arms and legs. Why couldn’t my parents have waited until January to move from upstate New York to Southern California? After we’d had one last chance to enjoy perfect Christmas traditions.

I was about to stand when an icy wave surged over my legs and up to my waist. At least something here was cold. I scrambled to my feet away from the rogue wave to my sister’s laughter.

We had a soggy, sandy drive home. Someone should have warned me that sand infiltrates inappropriate body parts. Then we headed inside past our earlier attempts to decorate the yard. Which I still wasn’t convinced could be called a yard when it more closely resembled a rock garden.

Why couldn’t my parents have waited until January to move from upstate New York to Southern California? After we’d had one last chance to enjoy perfect Christmas traditions.

Tinsel circled the trunk of a palm trunk. Icicle lights draped from the eaves, not fooling anyone. The only ice in this place was melting in drinks. Plastic reindeer faced an uncomfortable trek across rocks instead of snow-covered grass. And the inflatable snowmen would’ve been overdressed in scarves and mittens, except now they just looked melted after a run-in with a spiky plant I’d thought was grass but turned out to be sharper than Santa’s letter opener.

Surely hot chocolate wouldn’t fail me. I made two steaming mugs and carried them to the back porch. Addie sat in a rusted chair, kicking her legs. I handed her a cup overflowing with marshmallows. Sunshine beat off brick pavers.

The first sip made me sweat more. I sighed and set the mug down. “I’m sorry, Adds. I wanted you to have a perfect Christmas, but California’s determined to make me fail. It’s not the same without snow.”

She scuffed her feet and stared at the flowers in the yard, still blooming despite the season. “Grace? I have a confession to make.”

“What’s that?”

“I didn’t want to disappoint you, but…I’ve always hated snow.”

“So all this…” I waved a hand.

“You needed it,” she said simply and reached out a hand. “Let’s go make lemonade instead.”

I let her pull me to my feet. Operation Cold Christmas was a failure, but that didn’t mean Christmas had to be, too.

 

Read More Heart-Warming Christmas Humor in the December 2017 Edition of Splickety Magazine.

 

Meet the Author

Becky Dean writes science fiction and contemporary novels for young adults. Originally a Southern California girl, she now lives with her husband in Austin, Texas, where she misses the beach but enjoys the BBQ. When she’s not buried in a book, drinking tea, or watching science fiction shows on TV, she loves to travel and enjoys planning trips and adventures for herself and for her characters. You can follow Becky on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.