His new stepdad, as of July, tried to connect with him. Jim was trying to be kind to Simon, and trying to soothe the boy. His father had died 6 years ago, after all, when Simon was 15. But the bond the boy’d had with his dad was so strong that he still resented Jim.
There should be some kind of Ghosts of Christmas Past thing going on here, Simon thought bitterly, staring daggers at Jim and his mother, Vicki. They looked happy. It made Simon angry. Why had his mother moved on and he couldn’t?
“Hey, Si, Merry Christmas.” Jim lightly tossed him a brightly-wrapped package. Simon caught it in his off-hand, startled. Also? He hated the nickame ‘Si’.
“What the hell?” Simon muttered. “It’s too early to open presents.” The Greenes never opened gifts until Christmas morning.
“Call it a special occasion.” Jim exchanged glances with Vicki. “Humor us.”
Simon ripped open the paper. Underneath was a plain shirt box, which he opened carefully.
Inside was an old picture of Simon and his father.
“What is this?” Simon accused them. “I already feel bad enough. I don’t need the reminder of Dad tonight.”
Jim sighed. “We contacted a medium. If you go upstairs, he’ll meet you at midnight. Your dad, we mean. We want you to have closure.”
“Yeah, right.” Simon barely kept from swearing as he stomped upstairs. It was dark except for the twinkling white fairy lights everywhere.
“11:30,” he muttered as he shut his door forcefully. It made a satisfying slamming noise. “If my dad’s ghost doesn’t show up by 12:05, I’m moving out.” He was only staying to help with the rent, anyway.
Simon flopped onto his bed and grabbed his Kindle. He started to read something historical, but couldn’t focus through the tears in his eyes. It made him angrier. He tossed his Kindle onto the pillow and buried his face in his arms.
“Mmm,” he murmured. “What?”
“C’mon, champ.” His dad’s ghost floated beside the bed, pale grey and transparent.
Simon sat up carefully. “Dad?”
“Hi, son.” The shade hovered about six inches above the floor, adding to Gerry’s already impressive height.
“Dad,” Simon repeated, breathing shallowly. “It worked?”
“Yeah. But I don’t have long. What’s wrong, buddy?”
“Well,” Simon began. “Mom--mom--”
“Your mother and I had discussed a long time ago what would happen if I passed away unexpectedly. I didn’t have much in an insurance policy, but--well, Jim was a good friend. He promised to take care of you guys for me. My heart wasn’t that healthy. It wasn’t as unexpected as you thought.”
Simon stared. “Wait, what?”
“I had congenital heart failure.”
“Dad. I was old enough. You should have told me.”
“There was never a good time, Simon.”
“You should have told me,” Simon yelled at the top of his lungs. Gerry winced and floated back a step or two.
“I should have,” his dad said meekly. “I thought I had more time.”
“That’s a bullshit excuse and you know it.” Simon was shaking with rage and sorrow. “You lied to me. You never lied to me about anything else, but you lied about the most important thing of all.”
Gerry slowly rolled his head from side to side, stretching it--an old habit from his living days. He did it when he was nervous. “I’m sorry, Simon. I was wrong. How can I make it up to you?”
“You can never come back,” Simon snarled at his father’s spirit.
“Simon,” Gerry said, taken aback.
There was a long silence as Simon stared into the icy shade of his father’s green eyes. “Come see me once a year, on Christmas Eve. Maybe I’ll have forgiven you in a few years.”
Gerry nodded, translucent eyes filling with tears. “Whatever you want, son. I can’t promise I won’t check in on you, but I won’t come see you except on Christmas Eve.”
“Ok. Great. Thanks.” Simon was shutting his father out. He felt it. But he didn’t care; it was too painful to deal with this.
Gerry faded without another word, and Simon stomped downstairs.“Merry damned Christmas.” He threw the picture of himself and his father into the fire and stomped back upstairs to think in the dark.