I remember staring up at the stacks of books; my eyes wide with awe. Closing my eyes, I breathed in the sweet smell of fresh ink on paper, heard the sound of pages turning as their reader got more and more absorbed into the words. I opened my eyes to scan the titles and covers for my next friend. Bright colors and fonts filled my vision, each with the hope of a promising story within its folios. It didn't take too long for me to be captivated by a dark red book with curling letters. I slowly reached out to touch it, my fingers an inch away from the surface when someone grabbed my hand and started dragging me away from my heaven.

"Hey!" I cried. I tried to yank my hand away from my mother, but her grip was as hard as steel.

Mother stopped and glowered at me. "Really, Aithne?" She shook her head and sighed, tilting her head down so I wouldn't see the bruises under her eyes.

I bit my lip and mentally cursed myself for forgetting why we were here. As usual, Mother had waited until the last minute to do her Christmas shopping so here we were.

I took Mother's hands in mine and gave her a weak smile. "I'm sorry. I promise from now on we'll only focus on the shopping."

Mother smiled and planted a kiss on my cheek. "Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me."

"I think I have a pretty good idea," I replied with a wink.

Mother laughed, giving me a reason to widen my smile. It was a relief to hear that laugh after two years of silence.

***###***###***###***

I stumbled under the weight of the bags in my arms, but didn't call out to my mother for she was having the same problem. Slowly but surely we made our way to the car and dumped the bags into the trunk. I sighed and fell to my knees in exhaustion. Mother had her hand on the car, panting heavily.

"Aithne, we're done for the year," she said.

"Thank the heavens," I replied weakly.

Mother helped me to my feet with a grunt and we collapsed into our seats. Mother started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

We were silent on the drive home. I gazed out my window, watching the lights bend as we passed. Something felt off about the night, something important. I reached into Mother's bag for the list to make sure we had gotten everything. I had only turned my back for two seconds when the world ended, when my world ended.

"Aithne!" I heard my mother scream. I sat straight up only to be caught in the blinding gaze of a truck's headlights heading straight toward us.

The impact was immediate, crushing on my lungs. The light blinded me with pain. I could feel my bones cracking, blood seeping over my body. I lost my sense of direction, but I'm pretty sure our car was sent flying. As sudden as the impact was made, the crushing simply stopped. My eyesight cleared and I saw that the sky was no longer in its rightful place up above. I cried out for my mom, but there was a huge lump in my throat that I couldn't get rid of. The sound of running footsteps and the warmth of someone's warm hands on my arms calmed my nerves, but the overwhelming pain made me faint.

***###***###***###***

I blinked as the dark room came into focus. I was turned on my side so the first thing I saw was a figure slumped in a chair beside my bed. To my shock, I realized the figure was a boy I'd never met before. I tried to shift my weight, but cried out when pain shot up my leg. The boy stirred, blinking as he awoke. He quickly sat up once he realized I was awake.

"Do you need me to get the nurse?" he asked, concerned. I shook my head. The boy nodded to himself before sitting back.

"My-my mother," I croaked, trying to force the question out of my throat.

The boy looked away, but not before I saw the look of pity on his face. My hand flashed out and grabbed the boy. He turned to look at me, a shocked look on his face.

"Please," I whispered. "Tell me."

"Your mom didn't survive the crash," the boy answered dully. "I'm sorry."

I slapped a hand to my mouth to muffle the choked sound that came from my throat. Tears welled in my eyes and I shook my head fiercely, ignoring the pain.

The boy rubbed his eyes and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry for a lot of things. I'm sorry my uncle wasn't paying attention to the road and crashed into your car. I'm sorry your mom died. I'm sorry I didn't pull your mom out of the car before you. I'm s—"

"Wait, you pulled me out of the car?" I asked. The boy nodded. "And you were in the truck?" Again, he nodded. I sighed and motioned for the boy to lean over. When he did I kissed his cheek. "Thank you."

The boy pulled back, a small smile on his face. "My duty." He leaned over and pulled a small wrapped box from his bag. "They found this lying near your mom when they pulled her from the wreckage."

I took the box and my breath caught in my throat when I saw that it was a Christmas present from Mother. I unwrapped it and inside was a necklace that spelled my name with old typewriter keys. At the bottom was a worn note that I carefully pulled out. It read: Aithne, I know we've always had a rocky relationship with each other, but I hope this will change things. I know it's your dream to become an author so I hope this necklace will be a constant reminder of your goal. I'm proud to call you my daughter and I hope I can soon call you my little author. Love, Mom.

I let the tears escape from my eyes as I laughed. The boy smiled and helped me fasten the necklace onto my neck. It let it hang there, my fingers rubbing the surface of the first key.

I turned to the boy, a slightly confused look on my face. "Why now?" I asked.

The boy's face went first through confusion, then realization and lastly amusement. "It's Christmas day, Aithne."

"How do you know my name?" I asked, blushing slightly for some unknown reason.

He pointed to the remains of the gift wrap. "It was on your present."

I nodded and my fingers quickened their pace on their rubbing. "I feel really stupid asking this, but what's your name?"

The boy smiled and held out his hand for me to shake. "The name's Damian."

I laughed and shook his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Damian."

The nurse came in just then and smiled when she saw I was awake. "It's good to see such a young determined soul," she said, eyes misty. I smiled and she started checking for any problems. I discovered that other than a broken leg, I was perfectly fine. "A miracle girl," the nurse called me.

When she left, Damian picked his bag off of the floor and began digging around in it. I was tempted to ask him what he was looking for, but I figured it would be better to just remain silent. He produced a thin sheet of paper and handed it to me before slinging his bag over his shoulder. "A woman asked me if I could give this to you when you woke up."

I smoothed the paper out and looked at the tight letters on the page. It was titled "Twelve Days of Misfortunes". My heart stopped cold as I recognized the sheet I was holding. It was a list of events and their dates that I had written. It seemed that from December thirteenth to December twenty-fifth our family had horrible luck. This year was especially bad with my aunt having a miscarriage on the twenty-second and our dog dying on the fourteenth. I picked up a pencil from the table next to me and wrote "death of Aithne's mother" at the bottom and put the date, Christmas day. I crumbled up the paper and tossed it into the trash.

Damian, seeing the look on my face, asked me if I was okay. I nodded numbly, not wanting to talk about it. He nodded, although he didn't look convinced. Giving me one last look of sadness, he walked away, hands clasped tightly around the strap of his bag. I crashed back into the covers, wishing I had something to hold on to.

***###***###***###***

Ryan closes her notebook, her russet eyes dark and stormy. She is truly an inspirational girl, spending her time writing our stories instead of shopping at the mall like the rest of the kids her age.

She smiles. "Thank you for your time, Ms. Wolfe."

I take her hands in mine and rub them gentle. "Please dear, you can call me Aithne."

She laughs; her smile widening. "Have I ever told you how much I love your name?"

I chuckle. "Several times." She winks and turns to leave, but I stop her. "Have a wonderful Christmas, Ryan."

"You too, Aithne. Spend some time with your kids."

I shake my head with a small smile on my face. Ryan looks slightly confused and my smile widens. Ryan usually sees things others wouldn't, but sometimes she can be so clueless. "My dear, my children have all grown up and gone away. If I wished to see them, I'd have to go kidnap them."

Ryan chuckles, her laugh reminding me of hyenas. "In that case, expect me to be back on Christmas day."

I shake my head. "Thank you but that won't be necessary. I'm going to spend Christmas at my mother's grave."

Ryan nods and a grin shows up on her face. "Then I'll drop off a pie."

And before I can protest, she's out the door and screaming bloody murder all the way home. I burst out laughing and for a second I'm fourteen again, simply waiting for my mother to burst through the door with her list panicking about her Christmas shopping. I sigh deeply to calm myself before I get up to go beat some sense into Ryan Williams.

A/N: I'm back! So sorry for my disappearance it's just…homework is killing me. I even have homework over the winter break. *sigh* There's just no escape, is there? Well, I hope your holiday is a great one!