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Familiar Holiday Tales, Evening 1

December 3, 2016

The scene is set: a red wingback chair sits by a crackling fireplace bordered on both sides by ceiling-scraping Victorian bookshelves. A mug of steaming apple cider sits on a finely carved side table, upon which also lies a leather-bound book and a pair of spectacles. The NARRATOR enters, dressed in a deep green smoking jacket and plaid pyjama pants, carrying a packed tobacco pipe, which he lights and puffs upon while settling into the chair.

Narrator (setting his pipe on a rack on the side table): Good evening, and welcome to Familiar Holiday Tales.

Tonight’s Familiar Holiday Tale is, indeed, quite well known, but it is most often rendered in lyric by young women hoping to showcase their vocal talents during middle school Christmas concerts.

Without further ado, tonight’s Familiar Holiday Tale: ‘Attempted Date Rape, at Christmas’.

The NARRATOR takes a sip of apple cider before perching the spectacles on his nose, picking up the book, and flipping to a page.

Narrator: It is, admittedly, a dark and stormy night. Despite the inclement weather, however, Natalie has had a relatively pleasant evening with first-time date Frank. They had gone to dinner at Milestones, watched an amusing holiday special in the cinema, and presently have retired to Frank’s living room, where we join them.

A roaring fireplace illuminates Frank’s record collection and a single sofa, upon the edge of which sits Natalie, who is thinking of returning home to her more cozy abode to watch a favourite Christmas film, such as ‘Die Hard’, or ‘Filth’ starring James McAvoy, with her tangle-haired terrier Dominic.

“I really can’t stay,” she says, at last building up the courage. Her hope, bolstered by his reasonable treatment of her over the course of the evening, is that Frank will accede graciously. “I have to–”

“It’s freezing outside!” interrupts Frank, racing into the room holding a half-full kettle. “You can’t go!”

“I’ve had a lovely–”

“I wanted you to come over!” yells Frank.

“–evening,” finishes Natalie, her hopes dwindling in the face of Frank’s face (an increasingly clouded visage).

Frank drops the kettle and rushes at Natalie. Before she has a chance to pull away he is kneeling in front of her, his rough hands grasping hers. “Your hands are like ice,” he whispers.

“My . . . my mother will be waiting up for me,” stammers Natalie. “My dad, too . . .”

“WHAT’S THE RUSH, BEAUTIFUL,” demands Frank over Natalie’s last few words. His outburst precedes a moment of silence, filled only with the crackling of the fire.

Natalie’s jaw begins to tremble. “I’ve really got to go,” she says quietly. She looks up at Frank, who has yet to release her hands, and the part of her that thinks baby hippopotamuses are cute because of their abject hideousness allows her to form the words, “Maybe just a small mug of hot cider.”

This is an enormous victory for Frank who, in an enormous victory for Natalie, releases her hands in order to collect the kettle and enter the kitchen to craft a hot beverage. “Put on some records, if you like,” he says over his shoulder.

Natalie would not like. She would like to leave. She waits nervously the few minutes it takes Frank to make the cider.

“Shoot, baby, it’s real bad out there,” he says, as if only the kitchen has a window through which current weather can be divined. He reenters the living room carrying a single mug. “You’ll not get a cab in weather like this.”

Natalie takes the mug as it is offered and Frank takes a seat next to her (not offered). She takes a sip and, out of politeness, swallows, despite a decidedly unpleasant bitter tang assaulting her tongue. “What’s in this?” she asks, wincing.

“NOPE, NO CABS OUT THERE,” says Frank, looking anywhere but at Natalie.

A dizzy spell washes over Natalie and she barely keeps hold of the still-full mug of suspicious hot beverage.

Frank leans close to Natalie. “Your eyes are like starlight,” he rasps.

Natalie, weak and dizzy, puts the mug on the carpet and remains bent over, trying to collect her faculties, wishing she knew how to break the effect of whatever it was that had been slipped into the drink.

Frank puts a hand on Natalie’s head. “I’ll just take your toque off,” he says, mostly to himself, his tongue in the corner of his mouth. “You have nice hair.”

I have to say ‘no’, thinks Natalie, a single formed thought in a drifting morass of descending confusion. She opens her mouth, she tries to speak–

“I’m gonna cuddle right up to you, ‘kay?” Frank does not wait for assent and presses against Natalie’s side. “Why would you leave, baby? That’s just hurtful.”

From somewhere deep within, Natalie finally finds strength. “I really can’t stay!” she says, suddenly sitting up, sending Frank recoiling, but only for a moment.

“Don’t hold out, you–!” His snarl is cut off.

“I am leaving,” she says firmly, shaking the last of the confusion from her mind. “The answer is ‘no’.”

“But baby,” yells Frank as Natalie slips from his grasp and races out the door, “it’s cold outside!”

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