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“Come on, Jessie, help me sort out these Christmas lights. Maybe it’ll make you feel a bit more festive?”

Jessie gave her mother the kind of look perfected by every teenager. “Festive? It’s forty bloody degrees outside, how am I supposed to feel festive in the middle of summer? You know they’ve got snow at home?”

Her mother sighed. “Jessie, this is home now.”

“No, it’s not! Just because you decided to fly half away around the world to shack up with your boyfriend, it doesn’t make it home!”

Her mother put the box down and put her fists on her hips.

“Jessie, please don’t speak about Mark in that tone of voice. He’s your stepfather.”

Jessie jumped to her feet, her eyes flaring with anger. “He’s not my anything father,” she snapped as she stormed out, “and I hate him!”

Her mother was about to chase after her, but a gentle hand on her shoulder stopped her.

“Leave her be, love.”

She turned to look at Mark with a heavy sigh. “You heard all that?”

He nodded as loud music started to reverberate through the walls. “Let her blow off steam for a little bit, then talk to her when she’s calmer. I’ve got a plan.”

A few hours later, Jessie’s mother went to her door and tapped gently in the gap between songs.

“What is it?”

“Jessie, can you come out for a minute? I’ve got something to show you.”

The door was flung open with a huff and Jessie glared out. “What?”

Her mother handed Jessie her winter coat and walked down the hallway. “You’ll want this. It’s outside. Come on.”

Jessie reluctantly followed her mother down the hallway and out into the garden.

“What the hell?”

A large truck was parked outside the house. Jessie’s mother guided her to the back of the truck and opened the door. A waft of cold air drifted out.

“Put your coat on, then, and have a look inside.”

Jessie climbed up into the back of the truck and stared.

Snow was lying across the floor, piling up in drifts against the sides of the truck. Glitter and decorations hung from the sides of the truck, and at the far end stood a Christmas tree, covered in twinkling lights, tinsel and baubles, with presents piled up on a sledge. Between the tree and the sledge stood a fat man in a familiar red and white suit, with a big fake white beard.

“Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas,” he said.

Jessie looked around her in disbelief. It was a perfect Christmas scene. “What the-”

The man in the Santa suit took a step forward. “I know I’ll never be your father,” Mark said, his Australian accent at odds with the disguise, “But can I at least be your Father Christmas?”

Her practised air of teenage angst cracked, and Jessie smiled.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note- I’ve never been to Australia, but it occurred to me that Christmas in Summer must be strange, especially if it’s not what you’re used to. )

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