The problem with Christmas for Gideon was his family. The family always went to Aunty Cherie and Uncle Michael’s house for Christmas lunch, an event that started with nibblies at about 10:30am and finished up post-coffee and naps about half past four in the afternoon. That was fine but two sets of out-of-town aunts, uncles and cousins always stayed at Gideon’s house for two nights.
This year there’d been a chance the bushfires would keep them away so Gideon didn’t start clearing his chest of drawers until late and the wardrobe wasn’t locked until the first car was turning into the driveway. Dan and Rory always shared his room and when they were all eight he’d discovered Dan wearing his clothes. He’d lost two pairs of non-embarassing undies that year and ever since everything of his went into the lockable wardrobe before they arrived. Even, since the year Rory broke his new skateboard before he’d had a second ride on it, his presents straight after they’d been opened.
This year the arrivals had stories of passing through burnt-out bushland with drifts of sooty snow but the pictures hadn’t turned out well because they hadn’t been able to stop their cars. Rory’s sister Miranda had insisted, to her brother’s derision, that one of the people at a check point they’d gone through had been pointy eared. Uncle Steve and Aunty Karen didn’t laugh but Gideon could tell they thought she was mistaken or making it up but Gideon’s Mum just said what Gideon thought was obvious, “He was probably an elf then, sweetie. Did you see what colour his hair or eyes were?”
“No,” said Miranda. “He had a hood and sunglasses on.”
“Pity,” said Gideon’s Mum, “they would have told us what sort of elf he was.”
“Judy,” said Aunty Karen, “don’t encourage her.”
“She was being observant,” replied Gideon’s Mum with what he thought was admirable restraint. “There are quite a few elves around here these days, since the elf took over. Along with giants, trolls and a few dwarves. Most of them seem to be quite responsible people.”
When Uncle Peter, Aunty Kim and their family arrived, Dan’s little brother Maddox, who’d gone from dorky to wearing black in the year since they’d seen him, went round the house looking at the decorations. After a while he wandered back into the kitchen and asked, “Aunt Judy, what are the snowflakes made of? They’re really cold to touch.”
“Forged ice it says on the packet,” Gideon’s Mum told him. “They come in packs of fifty. I got three packs and no two are the same.”
“What’s forged ice?” Maddox’ attention was caught. “What else do you make from it?”
“Blades,” offered Gideon, “sleigh runners. That sort of thing.”
Dan burst back into the room at that point, “Hey, Gid,” he ignored the conversation that was already going on. “Who’s getting the bed this year?”
“I am,” said Gideon coldly, “and if I find either of you in it when I get back from work tonight, I’m dumping you on the floor.”
“You have to work tonight?” Rory was eating something already. “That sucks.”
“And tomorrow night,” Gideon added. “Like I said, if I come home and find one of you in my bed, either night, I’m dumping you on the floor.”
“But Gid,” protested Dan, “you always get the bed!”
“You always come here and sleep in my room,” Gideon levelled back.
The rest of them could see Dan rock back on his mental heels, “Uh, we do, don’t we?”
“You might like to keep that in mind, this year,” finished Gideon.