It was on the twenty-third that Peter rose early and got dressed for his last workday of the year. He spent roughly five minutes at the mirror combing thick brown hair before heading to the bathroom.

Though his father was currently occupying the sink, Peter felt grateful that his family was well-to-do enough to have an indoor water closet and subsequently strode towards it to relieve himself.

Younger siblings Lillian and Thomas rushed up to him shortly before breakfast, excited smiles on their cherubic faces while simultaneously making requests.

"Peter, buy me a rag doll for Christmas!"

"Please fix my train set!"

"Alright, alright..." Peter replied in amusement as he affectionately scooped Lillian on to his knees. "I'm not Daddy, but I'll stop by the toy store after work and see what I can get."

"Hooray!" The seven year old girl squealed, leaping off her brother's lap to go and bother their mother instead, leaving nine year old Thomas behind to glare impatiently.

"Now on to the subject of your train'll have to ask Pa about that. He's the one with the magic touch."

"Hmph." Thomas grumbled in disappointment before climbing upon the nearest chair just as Mrs Donovan began setting the table with Lillian's assistance.

Peter was the first to finish breakfast as usual, due to his father's large appetite and his siblings being rather fussy eaters.

He made sure to say farewell to everyone present and set out the front door, only to have his patience tested by his mother demanding a kiss on the cheek for extra measure.

The streets were rather quiet that time of the morning, save for the odd encounter with paper boy Irving, whom was hurriedly trying to deliver his last batch in time for school.

"Thank heavens I don't have to worry about teachers and books anymore..." Peter thought to himself in relief while fighting the urge to help lighten Irving's workload.

He instead wished the twelve year old a Merry Christmas before continuing on his way and thinking of said child's older sister Astrid.

She'd been among the prettiest of his classmates around the time he'd left school and her face still appeared often his daydreams to this day, though it were hard to imagine his parents choosing her as a potential wife.

He assumed it had everything to do with Mr. Sullivan marrying a German woman, which wasn't exactly a favorable affair now that the Great War was beginning to affect public opinion more and more.

Regardless, the annual dinner held by the O'Donnells seemed like an opportune chance to seize some valuable time alone with Astrid, granted her family would attend at all.

After preparing Lillian's present on Christmas morning, Peter and the rest of his family were required to make themselves look as respectable as possible for a family photo.

He ended up having to stand rather still between his parents while Thomas and Lillian tried hard not to fidget in their chairs.

The atmosphere grew increasingly tense as everyone struggled to maintain their poses until the inevitable flash of light.

Both of his parents exhaled in relief once it was over and Mrs Donovan removed her stifling hat before calling everyone back inside.

The evening was spent changing back into the clothes they'd worn for the photo and deciding on a proper present to give to the hosts as a gesture of gratitude.

Once that matter was taken care of, all five of them set off by foot towards their destination with Thomas eventually complaining of sore feet.

Peter's prayers were answered at the sight of Astrid gathered at the front with her family. He smiled upon noticing the white ribbon in her fair hair as she turned around to greet him.

The look in those bright blue eyes seemed to hint at secrets hidden deep beneath her demure air and he found himself unsure of the message she was trying to convey, though it became all too clear when they encountered each other under the mistletoe.

He leaned forward to kiss her on the lips and she gazed lovingly at his freckled face before realizing that Irving was watching.

They parted from each other in shame and soon rejoined their families, unaware that one of them would be laid to rest in an unmarked grave within a year, never to touch home soil again.