Author's note: This short story is set after The Stellar Snow Job and before the next book about Colibri Investigations. Happy holidays to those of you who celebrate!
- a Colibri Investigations short story
by Marie Howalt
“Besides, it’s weird to celebrate a holiday that technically belongs to one religion on one single planet, especially when you live in space. I don’t feel when it’s the spring equinox on Earth. I don’t feel Halloween or anything else. I can’t feel it’s Christmas, either,” Eddie was saying.
Alannah studied her over her own cup of steaming mediocre black brew in the galley of the Colibri. There was a small, translucent green plass decoration in the shape of an Earth evergreen tree on the table between them. Alannah had retrieved it from a box in her cabin, just like she did when Christmas approached every Earth year, regardless of where she happened to be in the galaxy.
Richard had announced that he was visiting his family for Christmas and extended an offer to both Eddie and Alannah to go with him. That was really sweet of him, even if it was partly out of pity. After all, Eddie’s family was not talking to her. Which was a rather too heartless reaction to her failed TWT career and hyper addiction, Alannah privately thought. If anything, she had needed their support when her life came crashing down, not additional condemnation. Eddie had immediately declined Richard’s offer.
Alannah had too, but only because she had plans of her own. Also like she did every year. But… “I see your point,” she told Eddie. “But there are other ways of looking at it, too.”
“Sure, commercial ways,” Eddie said with a huff. “Exploit people’s sentimentality by selling a bunch of lame ass decoration junk to humans on every single station and settlement.” Her eyes darted to the miniature tree between them. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with your tree.”
“I happen to like my tree,” Alannah said. “But that’s not what I was getting at. In my family, we have a number of traditions. My parents wanted me to know some old Earth traditions despite growing up on Tewamak. There wasn’t a large human population on the planet, and practically none apart from my parents and me in the province where I grew up. I spoke Synal and Standard better than English as a kid. And we observed several of the wendek traditions, especially the local ones that the people on Tewamak established. But none of them were…” She grasped for words. It wasn’t like it had felt fake to her. She had embraced the culture she grew up in as a matter of fact. “These traditions were new to my parents and my grandmother, and they wanted me to connect with my human heritage as well. They made that possible in several ways, and Christmas was one of them. So regardless of what time of the Tewamak year it happened to be, when it corresponded to Christmas time on Earth, they decorated our house with homemade decorations and gave each other and me gifts. And we always had the most delicious food. My dad would grow potatoes in the garden and import spices specifically to make an authentic human meal for Christmas. And my grandmother always made one new piece of decoration every year.” She smiled, the memory making her all warm and fuzzy inside.
Eddie was silent for a moment. She crossed her arms over her chest, then uncrossed them. “Well, I mean. When you put it like that, it sounds okay. Stuff like that just felt really forced in my family.”
“Nowadays, I don’t get to see my family very often,” Alannah went on. “But I always try to make it home for Christmas. On the few occasions when I haven’t been able to go, I send them presents and a clip with a holiday greeting.”
“Family traditions kind of sucked in my family. Like it was something we had to go through and nobody really wanted to, you know?” Eddie muttered.
Alannah pressed her lips tightly together. It was not for her to make scathing comments without being asked her opinion. And to be fair, she didn’t know Eddie’s family. She could not know if Eddie was exaggerating because she was too embarrassed to get in touch with them again, or if she had done more of the severing of ties than she let on. But from what Alannah knew, they sounded like total jerks. She got protective of the people she cared about, okay?
“I’m sorry. I think traditions,” Alannah offered instead of snide remarks, “only really work if they come out of a genuine desire to do things together. You can’t force people to be merry and pretend that everything is okay if it isn’t.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said, nodding. “That. So yeah. That’s why I’m planning on staying on the Colibri and listening to my favorite bands all over the ship when Richard isn’t there to complain about vocals.”
Alannah swirled the rest of her black brew around in her cup. “You know, if you aren’t too excited about getting the ship to yourself for a few days, you could always do something else.”
“Like what? It’s not like I’m upset about it,” Eddie said. “I don’t actually care about Christmas like you do.”
Alannah met her eyes. No, Eddie wasn’t lying. She might have cared and she might have been upset once, but she really was fine now. Christmas wasn’t mandatory in order to live a good and fulfilling life. Being close to your blood relations wasn’t necessarily, either. Yes, Alannah did care about Christmas. But she cared even more about her family, the biological one as well as her chosen one. “You could come with me,” she said.
Eddie blinked. “What?”
“You could come with me,” Alannah repeated although she was pretty sure Eddie had heard her the first time. “To Tewamak. It’s for Christmas, yes, but you don’t have to think of it as anything besides having a small holiday. With me.”
Eddie was silent for a while. “And your family,” she then added. “I don’t even know them. What makes you think they would even want me to tag along?”
“You don’t know them yet,” Alannah corrected her. “And they want you to tag along because I want you to.”
Eddie fidgeted with her mug for a while, scratching at a stain with a fingernail. “Look, I don’t need charity.”
“It’s not. My grandmother really wants to meet you. They all do because you’re my friend, but she was a hyperdrive mechanic before she retired. She never gets to talk shop with any of us.” Alannah smiled, hoping pulling this ace from her sleeve would win Eddie over.
And yes, Eddie visibly perked up at that. “Really? You never mentioned that. What kind of ships did she work on?”
“That you are going to have to ask her about,” Alannah said.
“Hey, I didn’t say I’d come. I mean, I don’t want it to be awkward for you. It would suck to gatecrash your family’s Christmas party.”
“I already talked to them,” Alannah said. “I wouldn’t be asking you if I hadn’t.”
Eddie blew out a long breath. “Okay. Yeah… Okay, I’ll go with you.”
Alannah grinned. “That’s a deal, then! I can’t wait to show you around my hometown.”
A slow smile spread on Eddie’s face. “Will there be stills of you as a baby on the walls?” she asked.
Alannah refused to look embarrassed. “Maybe,” she said. “Now if you will excuse me, I’ll just write my family to let them know our plans.”
“Wait, should I bring a present?” Eddie exclaimed. “I have no idea what any of them likes.”
“No one is expecting you to,” Alannah reassured her. “But if you really want to, we can pick up some chocolate on the way. You have no idea how hard it is to find human snacks on Tewamak.”
“Perfect,” Eddie said. “We’re dropping Richard off at Uluru Station first, and I know a really cool shop there.”
Alannah grinned. “Perfect,” she echoed.