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Author's Chapter Notes:
A lovely, cheerful one to start us off! ;)

Pretty Maids was looking spectacular. Holly hung in every corner, tinsel sparkled from round the bannisters and atop pictures and mirrors. In the dining-room, three young men, the youngest little more than a boy, were clustered round a polished dining-table, covered by a clean white tablecloth and decorated with more sprays of holly. As they watched, the door opened and in came their sister, carrying a small goose, bronzish-brown and steaming. She set it down in the centre of the table.


"Wow, Moll!" said the youngest brother, Joe, in awe.

"Don't call me "Moll"." chided his sister. "But, yes, it took me a lot of time to cook correctly."

"Either way, it looks delicious." interrupted the eldest present, Bob. "Shall we cut it?"

He did not wait for an answer. Soon, succulent slices of hot goose, accompanied by the appropriate vegetables, were being served and the meal was a merry one. Mollie Maynard had always done her best to make the place a home for her remaining family, and she would have done so, had it not been from the lack of co-operation from one brother.

***

One would not have known it was Christmas from Jack's room. It was as dark and gloomy as it always was, for he had not troubled to shut the curtains or put the light on, and was instead working by the light of the unsympathetic December moon. Yes, working! You didn't think he'd give himself a day of his studying just for Christmas, did you? He was painstakingly copying a diagram when there was a knock on the door.

"What is it, Mollie?"

Thank God the door was locked! He didn't want her in his room, no, not at all, for what would she say then about his curtains and his work?

"I wish you to know that there is supper."

"That is nice." he replied, biting sarcasm in every syllable. "You care about it. I don't. Goodbye."

He refused to acknowledge any further knocks and calls, but he found himself unable to settle to more work. He was used to skipping meals, the thought of having to see his siblings got a bit too much sometimes.

He went over to the thick green curtain which divided his room into two. Nothing had moved in fifteen years. Jack cast a look over to the photograph on the bedside table. A young boy grinned out of it, looking up at his younger brother with laughing, mischievous eyes. Jack sighed. Ever since Geoff's death, nothing had been the same. Christmas had never been a happy time in their family, but now Geoff was dead, dead because he was caught in the Scarlet Fever epidemic, returning home for the Christmas holidays, the jolliest time of the year would always be the moment that robbed him of all love, and all the happiness he had ever possessed.

It would take love beyond measure to change that.

Was this family? Those you were born with, forced to grow up with, despite hatred and rows and constant tension? Was this family, hiding away and wishing for the one sibling who was no longer here? Was this family? Was it really?
Chapter End Notes:
I was going to do them all tonight, but I'm too tired, so you'll just have to make do with this little one until further notice.



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