Christmas Carols in November
Roxy sighs, letting her head fall forward against the desk. The thunk is doing nothing for her pounding head and she closes her eyes. Just for a second. Just a moment to rest her eyes. She's not going to fall asleep. She can't afford to fall asleep.
She's missed too many seminars and lectures due to her cold and now that she's doing at least somewhat better - as in, able to manoeuvre herself out of bed without falling flat on her face - she has to catch back up with her studies on top of the content that she has missed in her classes.
She glances at her phone where Eggsy has send her a picture of a decorated Christmas tree. He'd invited her to go with him to the party, but she'd declined. She likes going out with him and his friends. They are so different from the people she's grown up with and sometimes seem almost alien to her, but they are good people and a lot of fun to be around.
But she'd declined, because a) as mentioned she has to study, b) she might be feeling a bit better, but that doesn’t mean she’s healthy enough to go partying. And most importantly c) it is a pre-Christmas party.
And if there is one thing Roxy hates, besides self-important douche bags, people who leave their dog poo on the sidewalk and her great-aunt Gabrielle, it is Christmas.
Roxy rubs her temples, squeezing her eyes shut. She wants nothing more than to just go to bed, lie down on her cool covers and wake up in a week when she's feeling better again.
But she's studied too hard to get into Cambridge and to keep her grades up, she's not going to slip just because of a measly cold. Not her. This is not her and she's going to fucking own this study.
God, she's so tired.
She buries her head in her textbook again when she hears something else.
“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening
In the lane, snow is glistening”
Please. Not again.
Her headache spikes.
“A beautiful sight, we're happy tonight
Walkin' in a winter wonderland”
She's glad not to be living in a dorm, having her tiny flat to herself. But the walls are thin and you often hear what your neighbour is up to. So far she's been speared the worst of it. She might have heard some of her previous neighbour’s sex life, but at least they hadn't had any overly weird kinks and were usually easy to ignore with the help of a pair of head phones.
But her new neighbour seriously pisses her off.
He keeps singing. Christmas Songs. In November.
Rox suppresses a frustrated scream, digs out her headphones and keeps on studying.
Roxy still feels too wobbly to head to class, but at least she can study the whole day now. She’s caught up on most of the missed classes around midday, but Professor Farahani's class is giving her some serious troubles.
She just can't get it into her head, which is pounding like crazy. The wonky heater isn't helping either, making her feel hot and cold in turns.
She's about ready to trash her books and notes and go find a job as a waitress instead, because that is so not an easy job, but at least she won't need damn Farahani's mumbojumboness to do it.
Then she hears it.
“Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la!
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la la la la!”
Her neighbour has a great voice she'll give him that, but for some reason that just pisses her off more.
She needs to study, she needs to get this done and that twit just keeps singing.
It is November. It's not even December, so what is it with the unnecessary Christmas cheer?
She pushes back her chair, gets on her feet. Really, if you live in close proximity with other people you have to be at least somewhat considerate. Sure, it would be awesome to just do whatever you like the whole day long, but if that's your wish than get a cabin in the woods with only bears and moose in your vicinity.
Then you can sing damn Christmas carols in August for all that she cares.
But not if you live next door to her.
And no, she is not Scrooge, alright? It's just unnecessary to sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town - to which he had moved on by now - before December has even started.
That is just too much.
Roxy pounds on the door. Which has a Christmas wreath on it.
The door is opened and a guy in the most hideous Christmas jumper stands in front of her.
He is bald and wearing glasses. Roxy is just glad that he’s not wear reindeer antlers.
The glimpse of the flat behind it is one glimpse too much. It might be tidy, but that impression is overshadowed by the fact that it looks like Christmas has puked all over it.
"Yes? Can I help you?"
The man has a pleasant smile and isn't too hard on the eyes, not that Roxy cares right now. Because he's all that is wrong with people at this time of the year.
"Yes, you absolutely can. How about you stop with", she makes an aborted movement with her hand. "With all this?"
He frowns. "All this what?"
"Singing!" She takes the half step back that she has somehow moved forward, sniffling. "I need to study and you're not just singing, you are singing Christmas carols."
The man cocks his head. "To be honest, I am not sure if it's wise of you to study right now. You look like-" he interrupts himself for a second. "You look terrible. And besides, what is wrong with Christmas Carols?"
"Well, I am sick, how do you expect me to look? That doesn't mean I shouldn't study. I need to study. And what is wrong with Christmas Carols? It is November! Everything is wrong with Christmas songs, but singing them in November should be forbidden." She frowns, glances at the shifting ground at her feet. The carpet has a really ugly colour. And why is there a carpet in the hall anyway? "There's probably a law against it. I'll have to ask Professor Knappe about it."
The man chuckles. It's a nice chuckle. Too bad he's Christmas personified. That is not so nice.
"You do that, but I'm sure he will come up with nothing." His faced morphs to some other expression - worry? - and he makes a move like he intended to grab her arm.
That's not nice.
"But really, you shouldn't be standing here in the cold hall, or studying anti-Christmas laws, you should be in bed."
She tries to work through that statement. "Was that a come-on?"
He laughs, his hand still out like he's ready to catch her.
"Trust me, your temper might be nice, but right now you really don't look like someone I'd want to come on to."
Roxy blinks. Her eyes feel way too dry. Maybe she should really head back to her flat.
She points a finger at him. "No singing!"
He smiles but doesn't answer, but she'll take it as a win. She turns towards her room.
For some reason the world doesn't stop spinning around her, even when she stops moving and black encroaches into her vision and-
Waking up is a slow process for Rox. She's usually somewhat quick about it. A short moment of confusion about whether she is still asleep or awake and in the next wide awake.
It feels like she has to work her way through a dark and warm swamp, clinging to her everywhere, refusing to release her from her clutches.
What wakes her all the way in the end is a hummed melody that she vaguely recognises as a song her dad used to sing when she was younger. He'd stopped at some point doing that. Just as he'd stopped smiling all that much and stopped playing games with them. It had happened around the same time that the atmosphere in her home had started to grow cold and stale and every minute spend there felt oppressive.
Sometimes she wonders why her parents never had just divorced and spared the rest of them the pain.
Then she remembers how frowned upon divorce is in the circles her family run in and she stops wondering.
But the softly hummed melody and the delicious smell of something wake her all the way up.
She blinks her eyes open. She doesn't actually remember going to bed the day before. Not that it's a surprise considering how out of it she'd been, but still. It’s a bit disconcerting.
She vaguely remembers trying to study and being interrupted by her neighbour’s rendition of the Greatest Christmas Songs.
Had she gone over? She might have. She vaguely remembers a room of Christmas explosion. And a man wearing an ugly jumper.
And suddenly Roxy remembers something else as well. She groans, closing her eyes again. Has she seriously passed out in front of her neighbour?
She pushes herself up when suddenly the humming is interrupted by a soft voice.
"You should take it easy."
Rox opens her eyes in surprise.
Next to her bed, a sealed bottle of water in his hand, stands said neighbour.
He puts the bottle on her night table, before straightening up.
"I would give you some medicine as well, but I imagine taking pills from strangers might not be high up on your to-do-list.
Roxy blinks at him. Her brain is still moving somewhat sluggishly.
"What are you doing in my flat?"
He raises his eyebrow. "I couldn't very well let you lie in the hall now, could I?"
For some reason she imagines hearing Deck the halls in boughs of holly. She can't imagine she'd have made a very glorious decoration for the hall.
And she's seriously out of it, because what?
"Besides, you were running a fever. I made some chicken soup, it's in the kitchen."
It's her turn now to raise her eyebrows. "And how would that be any different from accepting pills from strangers?"
He shrugs, holding his hand out to help her up.
"Point. But I could join you? I'll admit, cooking it made me a tad hungry."
On the one hand she'd like to wallow in her misery alone. She'd thought she was over the worst of the cold. Turns out that she was wrong. On the other hand, when he's not belting out Christmas songs her neighbour appears to be almost nice. He's got a bit of a blank thing going for him - though the hideous jumper works somewhat against that point, but still - he had brought her sealed water, made chicken soup and didn't leave her lying in the hall.
She could at least be so nice and let him at eat some of what he'd cooked.
She nods and lets him help her towards the kitchen. She has him make a detour to the tiny bathroom, where she fetches some pills herself.
She really needs to get rid of this cold. Best before either of her parents catch wind of it and decide to call, or worse, come for a visit.
Also, her cold medicine is running precariously low.
They sit down at Roxy's rickety little table and her neighbour ladles out some soup. It smells delicious, but a more important thought occurs to her.
"Uhm, what's your name?"
He sighs somewhat resigned and she can't figure out why. That is, until he says: "It's Merlin."
She opens her mouth, ready to give him a quip about it, but both the way he looks so neutral about it, like he really couldn't care less about anything she says, and the way he at the same time seems so resigned to it, because he just doesn't expect anything else makes her voice another thought.
"You going to hand that soup over any time soon, Merlin?"
He blinks, before handing it over. She loves confusing people. She eats a spoonful, not even waiting for him to eat a bit first - she might have forgotten for a second that she had been suspicious - and suppresses a moan with great difficulty, because this is delicious and if this is going to be her last meal she won't even mind.
"This is amazing. Do you cook professionally?"
He sits down with his own bowl across from her, looking vaguely pleased. "I don’t. But before I give you any more information, I think I at least deserve to know your name as well, don't I?"
She's not blushing, because she trained herself out of that a long time ago, but that’s the only reason for it.
"It's Roxy. Roxy Morton."
"Well, Roxy Morton, I'm not a cook, but I do enjoy cooking in my spare time."
"So what do you do when you're not having spare time?"
She really wants to know more about him. Most of the other people living in this place are around her age range, as the house is somewhat cheap and close to the campus. But besides her general curiosity, she just really wants to know more about him.
"Well, I've just started my own business. We're an IT company specialised in web security."
She'll admit, she is impressed. "That's impressive."
He smiles. It's a small thing, but no less warm for it. "Thank you. I've wanted to take this step for years. And to be honest I probably would still only be dreaming about it, if my friend hadn't basically written my notice for me and given me some financial boost to start out."
She smiles. "Sounds like a good friend."
Merlin groans, taking a sip of water. "God no, he's the worst. He pretends to be all posh, but I've never met someone who's as bad with upper class as him. And he's got this terror of a dog that he lets run rampant wherever he goes. He loves the mutt, but honestly, it's the devil." He frowns. "Though he's mellowed out a bit. Might be his age or that he's found himself a boyfriend in the park."
Rox laughs, holding her empty bowl up to him with a beseeching expression. At least she hopes it's beseeching. Anyway, it seems to work, because Merlin grabs it and heads to the stove to ladle out some more soup.
"Which one, your friend or the dog?"
Merlin actually ponders for a bit. "To be honest, could be either of them."
She laughs and enjoying her second helping a bit slower than the first, which she had basically inhaled.
Merlin leans back in his seat. "How about you? I'm guessing you're studying law?"
Roxy nods. "Second year now."
"And still thinking it's the right decision?"
“Absolutely. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've cursed it to hell and back again more times than I can count. But..." She looks away for a second. "I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else. I don't want to."
He nods and they eat in comfortable silence for a while. When they’re done Merlin gathers their now empty bowls and turns off the stove.
Her stomach is full and she feels pleasantly warm. Her gaze tracks Merlin's movement as he's cleaning up everything, putting the soup into the fridge, but it's less suspicious than it had been earlier, and more a lazy observation.
"You should head back to bed, before you fall off that stool."
Merlin laughs. It's a nice laugh.
"Thank you, but I really think it's time for another nap."
Roxy lets herself be cajoled out of the stool and back into her bedroom, where she crawls under the blanket.
She's about to fall asleep again, when a thought occurs to her.
"Promise me you won’t sing any more Christmas songs until December."
He chuckles. "I promise."
She hears his soft steps and then the door being closed just a moment before she's asleep again.
"It's the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When love ones are near
It's the most wonderful time of the year"
Groaning she turns over burying her head in her pillow. He'd promised.
Still in pyjamas she heads over, knocking at his door.
He opens, a wide, smug grin on his face. Before she can even open her mouth he holds a calendar into her face.
"It's the 1st of December."
<<<< End >>>>