A Christmas Story

He looked at me intently, two rings of cool blue glowing through the black band of his mask. The effect was quite mesmerising. He leaned forward, as if he was about to share something of the utmost importance.

“What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done at Christmas?”

At first I was flummoxed by his challenge. I tried to think what I did last Christmas, and then the one before that. Some good parties, a bit of dressing up, some rolicking sex, a bit of festive over-indulgence. Did any of that count? None of it was what I’d consider naughty, in that I wasn’t remotely ashamed of any of it. Was I really that boring that I didn’t have any sordid secrets?

I closed my eyes, searching deeper and deeper into my memories. Christmases spent abroad, at university, at school and at home. When I tried to remember the details I was surprised to find they existed as stills rather than movies, a vague recollections of being somewhere, of being with certain people. Each successive memory became fuzzier the deeper I reached.

Then I stumbled across a memory whose vividness shocked me, an experience from my childhood that still seemed vibrant and real. I was young. An impetuous little girl. And I was doing something I most definitely shouldn’t have been doing.

Was this what he meant? This was something I was ashamed of, perhaps my guilt had preserved the memory in such detail, revisiting it, unable to let it go. In retrospect it wasn’t a big deal, just a childish misdemeanour, but at the time it had felt like a very naughty crime indeed.

I opened my eyes, and began to tell him everything. Every footstep and every quivering sensation, a Christmas confession I’d suppressed for decades. He listened in silence, just an occasional nod of encouragement when my courage faltered. At the end he didn’t offer me absolution, just an brusque observation.

“Yes, that is very naughty.”

Perhaps he was somewhat disappointed. Perhaps he was hoping for something more rousing, a thrilling tale of shattered rules and broken taboos. But what I’d told him was all I had. For the first time this evening I felt the lurching queasiness of self-doubt. From the way he looked at me I knew he found me attractive, but I wanted to be more, I wanted him to find me interesting. No, it was more than that, I wanted to be fascinating.

He looked down at our empty glasses.

“Another drink?”

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