Joey sat uncomfortably in the overstuffed chair. It wasn't that the chair was uncomfortable, he was. It was getting close to that time again. His
parents had been watching more and more closely with each passing day, wondering if they would need to send him away again. He hated the place they
sent him and he always missed Christmas. The Christmas he missed was no big loss, but the one everyone else got to enjoy was the one he really missed.
More than anything, he wished people would just believe him. Just once. He knew, more than anyone, how important it was to be nice and tell the
Joey, ten years old with a stately presence about him, sat eyeing his parents speculatively. What were they thinking? He knew he had done well keeping
things calm until now. But it was also getting nearer to the time when all hell usually broke loose. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about
it. He focused on being as stoic as possible, not showing any sign of fear or anxiety. If he parents so much as suspected he felt... odd... it would
be off to the home again.
“Joey, you okay buddy?”
Joey grimaced when he heard his fathers voice.
“Yes Daddy. Just thinking about Christmas cookies.” Joey hoped his excuse had worked. It wasn't really a lie, he had thought about cookies at
least part of the time. He hoped his little transgression didn't land him on the naughty list.
Joey's father looked at him closely, inspecting him. Joey maintained his smile and refused to waiver. After what seemed like an eternity his father
turned to his mother and said, “We should get going, traffic is going to be a bear with all the weather.”
It was the same every year. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, his parents would start pushing him farther and farther under the
microscope, looking for any sign of stress. It was a shame they never understood how much stress their scrutiny caused. If it was stress they were
looking for they seemed oblivious to the mountains of it they piled on Joey. Three years of this was enough for anyone.
Joey remembered when it all started. Visiting his Grandparents for Christmas when he was seven years old. All the way there his parents, especially
his dad, told him how great it was to have Christmas at his childhood home. His heart was filled with eager anticipation the whole way there. They
turned onto the long drive up to the house and it seemed like they had driven into one of those fancy snow globes where everything seemed so perfect
it couldn't be real. The house, illuminated with the twinkling of hundreds of lights, seemed almost alive. It breathed love and exhaled joy. It was
better than he had ever imagined. Through the windows Joey could see the Christmas stockings hung by the chimney. He saw the colorful cards on the
mantle. He saw the beautiful wreath on the bright red door. This house was Christmas come to life!
The car rolled to a stop near the garage and Joey's father turned off the engine. He turned round to look squarely at Joey, his mother biting her lip
but saying nothing.
“Joey...” His father started, then stopped.
Joey gathered his strength and smiled proudly at his father. He tried his best to show him that everything was going to be just fine. It must have
worked, his father opened the car door, then opened Joey's. Laiden with gifts the three went to the front door just as it opened revealing the broad
smiling face of Joey's grandfather.
The family entered to discover they were the last to arrive. Gathered in the family room were all five of Joey's cousins, the little trolls. He didn't
care for them much. Though they were not as smart or talented as Joey was they always managed to tease him as if he was somehow lacking. They had to
gang up on him and cheat just to stand a chance of winning at whatever they were doing but it was always Joey who was picked on. And when the episodes
started happening, well, it just got a thousand times worse. Especially Diane, the little snot. She was the meanest. She would swear, then run and
tell her mom that it was Joey just so she could watch Joey get in trouble. If she only knew...
Joey promised himself he wouldn't falter. He would be strong and not let anything get to him. And on the shelf was the Little Elf. And on the mantle.
And on the bookcase. Joey froze when he saw them. Joey's father saw the look in Joey's eyes and saw the reason why.
“Dad...” Joey's father began.
“Jeffrey, its tradition. You know that.” Grandpa Joe said in a firm tone.
Joey tried to act casual. How many would there be this year? Eleven last year seemed too much to bear. Eleven of the little red bastages, perched
everywhere in the house, watching, waiting... All he had to do was make it through the night. They could open their presents in the morning and be on
Most of the other children were shoving cookies in their mouths as Diane sat trying not to be seen tearing open gifts to get a peek inside the pretty
wrapping. Of course she would eventually blame Joey for it, but there was no point in saying anything about it now. No one would believe him anyway.
Joey noticed the elf above Diane was looking straight at her, and she was completely unaware.
Joey looked away from Diane for a moment to see the other children staring at him. His cousin Suzy said, “Don't say anything. He still believes in
Santa Claus.” The children laughed at Joey, whom they believed was too old to believe in fairy tales. Joey looked back at the elf and noticed it was
closer to the end of the mantle. The elf on the bookcase had fallen to the floor, right behind Suzy.
“It's true!” Joey shouted. “You can't be naughty! You can't! The elves!”The cousins all looked at each other, then at Joey and busted out
laughing. Joey was screaming, “You have to believe me!” as his mother scooped him into her arms and carried him upstairs. Joey was just babbling
now about elves and teeth and shadows. It was happening again. They had the emergency number of the home but it would be a long drive in bad weather
if they tried to leave now. She laid Joey down and held him in her arms wishing she could help him.
edit on 1-12-2016 by Vroomfondel because: (no reason given)