Marshall looked around the room with great satisfaction. He knew the sight of the house like this drove Constance nuts, but that’s why she was already in bed. The tree twinkled with pure white lights, glints of gold and red refracting off the bulbs and onto the walls. Bits of torn wrapping paper littered the floor and furniture; the grandkids had really gone hog wild this year opening their gifts. Dirty plates with smears of cheesecake lingered on the dining room table, mixing with the smell of spilled wine, absinthe, and his own hearty mug of eggnog. Outside, the snow was falling lightly, adding to the days-old accumulation outside. Such peace. He took a sip from his mug. This, for him, was the only way to end Christmas: alone amongst the wreckage, sipping his spicy spiked eggnog, Christmas radio playing, local news playing on the television on mute. Even though he was the only one awake, he felt the warm presence of his loved ones lingering around him as he sat in his favorite armchair.
The whole day had gone splendidly. He’d basically avoided Constance the last few days, tidying up and decorating outside, shoveling snow, and wrapping all the gifts. (His ability to perfectly wrap any present and curl every type of ribbon was a source of both pride and annoyance to Constance, he knew, as excellent present wrapping/decoration was one of the few things she could not do well no matter how many times she tried.) That morning, he’d happily stacked all the gifts under the tree, then took his cup of coffee and stayed out of Constance’s way for as long as possible. Over 40 years of marriage had taught him that he was not wanted in the kitchen, especially not on holidays.
He did love his wife, though, as odd a pair as they seemed on the outside. She’d always had an ice queen edge about her that did not soften throughout the years of marriage and motherhood or even grandmotherhood, but he was always able to see past that severe exterior into the softer, gentler Constance he knew so well.
He took another sip of eggnog, recounting the conversations with Chelsea’s new boyfriend. Poor guy had looked so scared, standing in the kitchen and awkwardly attempting to blend in with the family. He’d made sure to talk to the boy all evening, and demanded that Kyle (Kevin? Kirk? whatever) sit next to him at dinner. “Best to let the rest of them squabble amongst themselves,” he’d said, as he took Kristian by the arm and led him to the seat next to Marshall’s at the table.
Kameron seemed like a nice young man, if a bit, what were the kids saying now? Hippie? Popster? Something like that. That boy drank nothing but fancy, very alcoholic beer all night; no wonder Chelsea had to drive them home. Smelled like chocolate, though, but no way could Marshall drink those things all night. He’ll stick to his traditional eggnog, thank you very much.
As he drained the last of the mug, Marshall thought of all the young grandkids excitedly tearing into presents, shrieks of joy piercing the living room air, and each one getting up to hug and thank him for every gift, even the boring ones of socks and shirts. What lovely, well-behaved grandchildren he had, he thought, as the rum in the eggnog, combined with his favorite chair and the soft, twinkling lights, soothed him at last into a comfortable sleep. Sure, he’d be spending the next three days cleaning the house with Candace, but for now, all he had to do was enjoy his blissful dreams of eggnog and laughing grandchildren.
Scent notes: Eggnog sprinkled with allspice, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg