A Berry Merry Christmas

by The Story Man

First published

You spend some time with Berry Punch on a special night.

It's that time of year again.

The holidays, a time of joyous celebration, gift giving, chorus singing and drinking of strange alcohol. You've really only managed to do that last part so far.

You sit now in a bar, trying to forget the bland feeling you have from the constant reminders of your loneliness.

While there, you hear a commotion and a strange woman who just might be the thing you want this Christmas.

(Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it and happy holidays to those who don't. No sex in this one I'm afraid, but a feel good time of year needs a feel good kind of story, no?)
(Cover art by Sp@ce.)

The Berry Best

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Another drink fails to take you away from the Christmas songs being played around you.

While it’s a nice time for most people, if you’re alone it’s not a very warm time of the year. Snow covers the roads on top of ice, people get sick, and the lonely few feel even lonelier.

You don’t take it too hard though. A good drink or two and you could go home, watch some t.v. and enjoy the time you have off, even if it is bit empty in your apartment. Time off from your bland job is still time off after all.

Lifting the drink up, you realize you don’t even remember what you ordered. Doesn’t matter now, since you finish its mysterious contents in one last swig. Setting it back down, you sigh and turn around in your stool.

There’s a party being held a few feet away from you. Everyone in it seems happy just to be near each other. They laugh and even some of them sing some Christmas songs with a comical slur in the tune.

Turning back to the bar, you look up at the t.v. with the volume too low and read the subtitled news. There’s a story about the Christmas Eve celebrations around the nation.

Another drink passes you by and you start to feel light headed. It’s a bit sad to know, but you’ve built up a tolerance from repeated drinking.

You may not drink anything heavy, but practice makes perfect.

The sound of glass hitting the bar makes you turn your head. A large man wearing a tank-top with a reindeer embroidery on it was glaring down at a woman in a red dress wearing a santa hat.

“The hell do you mean ‘too drunk’? It’s a fucking bar, you *hic* you dick!” says the woman, poking a finger into the man’s chest.

The voice of the girl is surprisingly familiar to you. Standing up, you start to move over to see the woman’s face to see if you can remember who it is.

“Miss, you’re disturbing the other patrons,” the man says, clenching his hands tightly into fists.

Reaching an empty table, you look over without drawing attention to yourself. Being fairly drunk, this means turning your head completely and staring at the woman’s face.

It takes a few moments for you to recognize her, but you eventually do. She’s Berry Punch, a girl you used to go to school with a few years ago. Both of you had a few mutual friends back then and had even hung out a few times.

While you don’t remember much about her, it’s a bit nostalgic to see her. Seeing her about to lose a fight makes you feel a bit defensive however.

“Well tell the ‘other patrons’ to fuck off,” she says, going back to her stool.

The man places a hand on her shoulder and pulls her away to the door as she makes a fuss trying to free herself from his grip.

“Stop struggling and just get out!” he shouts at her as they reach the door.

You follow them to the door as most of the bar watches the scene go down. The girl tries to brake, but only ends up tripping herself up. Eventually, the man places a hand on her back and shoves her out into the street.

“And don’t come back,” he says to her as he dusts off his hands.

She replies with some curse words as she stands up and fixes the hat on her head. Her legs wobble as you leave the bar, having payed for your drinks.

Walking outside, the cold air hits your face again and you wince. Looking to your right, you see her walking away, clutching her arms together to try and stay warm. You quickly catch up to her, the noise making her turn around.

“Hey Berry, long time no see,” you say, slowing down as she stops.

She looks at you and gives a quick smile before returning to her slight frown.

“Yeah, uh, same to you,” she replies, half turning down the street.

“I saw what happened in the bar. You alright?” you ask, glancing to a spot on her dress that still has snow on it.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” she says with a shrug.

Both of you go awkwardly quiet as some cars pass you by. Being this late at night, not many cars are on the road. Still, the wind is picking up and Berry is visibly shaking now.

“Pretty cold out tonight,” you say, rubbing the back of your head.

She makes a small noise of agreeance and looks down at the ground and away from you.

Must be the cold air messing with your head, but you decide to take a shot in the dark.

“Hey, you want to come back to my place? I don’t have anyone over and at least it’s warm,” you offer, putting your hands in your pockets.

She looks up at you, and then back down in the direction she had been walking when you stopped her.

“Eh, screw it. Why not?” she says and moves closer to you.

You flash her a quick smile which she doesn’t return. Turning around, you head off back towards your apartment, which is thankfully close by. While it’s not so good for your liver, it’s nice for your head.

Neither of you say anything as you walk the short distance there. Only Berry makes some small cough every once in a while.

After going up the stairs to your floor, you unlock the door and step inside. Berry walks past you as you take off your coat. From the small shivers, you can tell she’s already warming up.

“Your place is a mess,” she says with friendly laugh, looking around the room.

“Yeah, didn’t expect anyone over today. It warm enough?” you ask, hanging up your coat.

“It’s fine,” she says as she looks around and sits on your couch.

Both of you go quiet again as you try to think of something to say. Doubt start to come to your head about why you did this. Just as they start to get to you, Berry speaks up again.

“So, you doing anything for the holidays?” she asks, leaning against the arm now.

“Nope, just taking my vacation time to... relax, I guess,” you reply with a small shrug.

It sounds odd coming out of your mouth, but then again it is an odd thing to think. You can’t really give a good reason for taking the time off if you’re just going to be alone.

“I know that feeling,” she says, shaking of her head.

Both of you go quiet again. It’s starting to look like you made a mistake when Berry groans.

“Ugh, I’m tired of moping about. You got any booze?” she asks, standing up and stretching.

You blink at her before standing up and heading to the fridge.

“Uh, yeah, I got a few beers in here,” you say and pull out two.

Walking back over to the chair, you hand her one and both you take a few drinks in silence. After that you share in the usual small talk. For some reason, it feels off to you though. It’s true that you often go autopilot on this kind of stuff but it was almost rehearsed.

Eventually, both of you are quiet again, having run out of banal questions like “what’s your job?” and “what’s that like?”.

Waiting for the other person to ask another question, you both look to the window. There’s no snow falling, despite the forecast that there would be. It makes the buildings that you can see from it look deathly still.

“So how come you aren’t making any moves?” Berry asks after only a few seconds of staring.

“I don’t know. Seems like it isn’t really the time,” you reply, still looking out the window.

“Yeah right, what’s the real reason?” she presses, leaning forward.

You look away from the window and back towards her. Her face gives away the fact she’s drunk at this point, but her voice shows she has a remarkable amount of control.

“Feels odd I guess. I’m out of practice when it comes to this stuff,” you say, standing up to get more beers.

“I’d help you if I could, trust me. But you haven’t gotten any dates?” she asks, flopping back in her seat.

You return with the drinks and hand her one which she quickly opens and lifts up a bit in a toast. Doing the same, you both take a drink before you sit back down in the chair.

“Nope. Guess it’s just work or something,” you reply with a sigh.

“Well, I’m right there with you. Guess we’re both lonely on the holidays, huh?” she says with a fake laugh.

Another silence, this one broken up by some car horns and drinking sounds. You repeat this for the rest of the beer until you start to feel drunk. You already were tipsy from the bar, but these drinks were sending you over.

“Well, I mean, you could stay here if you wanted too,” you offer in a slight mumble.

“And do what? Play board games or something? Look, I might as well go now if you’re not going to try something,” she says, pushing herself up to a wobbling stand.

“We don’t have to just sit here. Isn’t it better to be with someone on the holidays anyway?” you say, standing up and finding gravity somehow stronger now.

“Hey I’m not that desperate pal,” she says with some indignance.

“I wasn’t saying you are. I mean, I’d like to spend the time with someone rather than just being by myself on a holiday,” you reply, leaning against the couch for support.

“Well maybe I like being alone. Ever think of that?” she asks with a waving glare.

“Do you?” you ask in confusion.

She looks down at the ground for a second. Taking off her hat, she sighs and moves back to the couch.

“No, but I don’t want to just be here out of pity you know. Not pity from you or pity for you,” she says, sitting back down.

“Well who said anything about pity? Shared attraction doesn’t sound all that pitiful,” you say, before looking back out the window.

“Sounds pretty pitiful to me. So what is your goal here?” she asks as she lifts a bottle trying to get an extra drop from it.

“My goal?” you ask.

“Yeah, your angle. Try to sleep with me? Or is this your idea of romance?” she asks with a soft chuckle.

“I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. To be honest, I thought we would just talk and see what happens,” you say, looking back to her.

“I can’t tell if you’re being that cheesy on purpose or you’re really that bad at this,” Berry says with a laugh.

“Well what makes you think I need an end goal? Can’t I just enjoy talking to you?” you ask innocently.

“Maybe, but I doubt you would,” Berry says, taking on a sudden somber tone.

You watch as she places the bottle she was holding back on the table and fall back against the couch. She turns her head over to the window before looking at the hat she’s still clutching in her hand.

“Why do you think that? You seem interesting to me,” you say, trying to cheer her up.

She gives a sudden laugh before looking back at you.

“You hardly know me, how would you know?” she asks with a smile.

“I said you seem interesting, if you really think you’re not then you can prove it by talking to me,” you suggest.

“Yeah, that’s true. So what’s left to discuss? We’ve already touched on all the boring life stuff,” she says with a glance down at the empty bottles.

You look to the window, thinking to yourself for a moment. She is right about having hit all the questions that have easy answers to them. All that leaves you with are question which aren’t so appropriate.

Lucky for you, you’re drunk enough to ask them anyway.

“Why were you at the bar tonight?” you ask as the question comes to you.

Berry pauses and the smile disappears from her face. She glances back up at you before sighing and letting her head fall to one side.

“Trouble with bills. Got tired of seeing my debt piling up in front of me and just wanted to cut back. Why were you there?” she finishes looking you up and down.

“Nothing as bad as yours I guess, just seasonal depression,” you reply, looking down at the table.

Another silence starts to creep through your apartment until the wind picks up. Both of you look to the window as it’s view is quickly obscured with snow rushing past. You silently thank the weather for holding off until you got home.

“Guess I’m not heading anywhere then,” Berry comments to herself.

“Uh, sure, you want to just crash on the couch?” you say, rubbing the back of your head again.

“You sound like you don’t want me too, having a change of heart?” she says with a small smile.

“No, I just don’t want you to be forced to stay here or anything. Feels a lot less genuine if you’re only here because you have to be,” you admit.

“Eh, it’s nicer than the old mattress I have at my place anyway. I was expecting you to offer I sleep in bed with you though,” she says with an inebriated wink.

“Nah, I’m not really the kind of guy who just picks someone up to sleep with them. Sorry, if that’s what you were thinking,” you say, watching a flurry of snow brush against the window.

“You know, I can’t tell if you’re trying to pull the nice guy act or are really just trying to avoid having sex with me,” she says, staring at you.

“It just feels... I don’t know, off?” you say, disatissfied with your own vocabulary.

“Sure know how to make a girl feel good, huh?” she says sarcastically as she puts her feet up on the table.

“I don’t mean it like that. Maybe it’s just the season or something...” you drift off as you glance down at the beers.

Weariness starts to creep into your head and you can tell you’re not going to last much longer. Looking up to Berry, you can see she’s having a similar experience.

“Do you want to sit next to me then? It’s the least you could do for your guest,” she says with a joking voice.

“Might have trouble getting there. A few beers is known to make short distances longer,” you return as you stand up and start towards the couch.

A few stumbling steps and you fall onto the couch next to her. To be more precise, you trip and have to flip onto your back. Seeing you fall makes Berry burst out laughing, which you join in once you’ve righted yourself.

After the laughter dies down, you both look at each other for a long time. You linger on her eyes and the deep magenta color of them. A chime sound makes you turn your head.

An old clock on your wall sounds off that it’s midnight. Officially speaking, it’s now Christmas day.

“Merry Christmas,” Berry says her eyelids starting to droop.

“Yeah, merry Christmas to you too,” you say, tilting your head slowly towards Berry.

“Oh, and thanks,” Berry replies in a tired stupor.

“For what?” you ask, equally weary.

“Spending time with me. Been a long time since someone’s actually cared about me and my problems,” she says, leaning her head on your shoulder.

“Well, we’ve all been there. Good to just have someone that cares,” you reply with your eyes closed.

Berry doesn’t say anything and for a while you wait for a response. Only after you hear her breath fall into the rhythmic motions of sleeping do you adjust your seat and join her in dreaming.