» keta: [KAY-tah] n. an image that inexplicably leaps back into your mind from the distant past (The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows) «

The first thing I notice is the largeness of Mark's family. He introduces me to all of his extended family and, once the onslaught of names and faces to remember is over, offers to get me a drink. I find myself a seat as I wait for him, engaging in conversation with a couple of his aunts.

He handed me a mug of hot chocolate as he sat beside me. "Eru, I'm sorry we aren't going anywhere for Christmas this year."

I shook my head. "It's fine, Kenny. At least we'll spend it together."

He leaned forward and kissed me on the forehead. "You bet we will, princess."

Someone clears their throat beside me, and I turn to find Mark extending a paper cup to me. I smile as I take it from him, nodding along with whatever his aunt is saying. The dinner call sounds, and we all gather around the table.

The second thing I notice is the warmth and love the whole family simply exudes.

I shivered under the duvet, and his arms immediately enveloped me in a warm hug. "Cold, princess?" he chuckled.

"Maybe a little," I admitted, leaning into him. After a quiet moment, I decided to raise the topic that weighed heavily on my mind the whole day. "Kenny?"

He answered with a murmur of assent and began running his fingers through my hair.

"Do you miss having more family to spend the holidays with?"

Almost immediately, his fingers froze, and his body stiffened. "Of course," he whispered so quietly that I almost failed to catch it.

After dinner, the kids open their presents. They squeal with excitement and thank every single person for their gifts, making me smile. The younger ones run off to play with their new toys as soon as the last gift is opened, and I step onto the deck in the backyard, inhaling the chilly air.

The third thing I notice is just how much my first Christmas celebration without Kenny hurts.

I woke up to him tucking me into bed. I snuggled deeper under the covers, yawning, "Love you, Kenny."

"I love you, Eru." He reached for the doorknob, ready to close it behind him, but then paused. "You're all the family I need, you know."

I smiled at that. "Merry Christmas, dork."

"Merry Christmas, princess."

I wrap myself tighter in my coat as Mark joins me outside. Concern is painted on his face.

"Are you okay?"

A tight smile tugs at my lips. "No," I answer honestly, "but I will be." I pull an envelope out of my coat pocket and hand it to him. "It isn't much, but—"

Instead of opening it, he slips it into his back pocket and engulfs my hand in his. "Don't worry about it." He grins at me. "Merry Christmas, my dear Erunai."

"Merry Christmas, Mark."

»Author's Note:
Just a little oneshot I wrote for a writing contest that I uploaded to Tremors as a belated Christmas present. However, I moved it to Bricolage (yes, I did change the title from Prompts and Circumstance) because it's not essential to the story.