mjkj's points story: The Last Hanukkah
It was hard not to think of it as the last Hanukkah. True, whatever college Edith ended up going to, she would probably have a winter break that sent her home in time for at least part of Hanukkah, but she probably wouldn't have a full Hanukkah with her family in the next four years. Anyway, everything was going to change after this year. Even if there had been a college close to her house, she wouldn't have applied there. She wanted to get far away. At least far away enough that no one could expect her to make a day trip home. Far away enough that no one where she was going would know who she was.
Certainly far away enough that no one would know about how Tori Fuller had rejected her last week. Edith felt her cheeks burn just thinking about it. She hadn't even really been flirting, but Tori had short hair and was on the stage crew, and for a little while Edith had thought that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't the only lesbian at her high school. She'd tried to talk to Tori alone, but hadn't gotten a chance, and when she finally gave up on getting her alone and just tried to talk, Tori had laughed and told her that she wasn't a freak--in front, as it happened, of the entire stage crew and half the cast of Romeo and Juliet.
Tonight was the first night. It was just after five PM and the last red of the sunset was fading out the dining room windows. Her father had just come down from the attic with the box of menorahs. Edith's mother really liked going to thrift stores and antique sales and finding unique decorations for the house, and menorahs were no exception. That was how they had ended up with five of them.
Her parents, of course, hadn't been at all helpful when she'd told them what Tori had said. She'd thought they had come to terms with her being a lesbian, but they had told her that she shouldn't have even tried to talk to Tori, that she should be looking for boys to meet instead. She'd tried to explain that it didn't work that way, but they hadn't listened.
Edith took the menorah she had claimed when she was seven years old. At least this was a familiar comfort. She liked it because it was symmetrical and simple. The space for the shamash rose an inch above the others, four on each side. It was made of solid pewter and had a heavy base and smooth lines. Her mother grinned excitedly at the new one she'd picked up after Hanukkah last year, an ornate bronze one with a design of grapes behind the candles that had probably once been painted purple and green.
Her father and sister put the rest of them out on the table, each on top of a metal or foil-covered plate of some sort so that the wax wouldn't drip directly onto the decorative tablecloth. Her younger brother Jacob was still in the kitchen, digging through a drawer for the boxes of candles he was sure he and Dad had picked up the last time they'd gone shopping.
Edith was watching the sunset color disappear when he emerged triumphant, holding up the box. Her mother took it and handed out the candles, two for each menorah, as her father turned off the lights. Edith placed one candle firmly in her menorah and held the other. As her father struck a match, they began the first prayer, and sang it together as he lit her mother's shamash and then all the others were lit from that. They sang the other two prayers, watching the candles begin to melt. One of Jacob's guttered out and he had to pick up his shamash again and relight it.
Then her father turned the lights on again, and her mother went into the next room and emerged with a pile of boxes. "All right, presents!" cried Jacob. Everyone laughed.
Her mother passed out the presents. A slim box to her father (probably a tie), a large box to Jacob, a smaller box to their sister Leah, and something small to Edith. She weighed it in her hands. It was shaped like a book, but lightweight. A movie, maybe?
Jacob was opening his present first, so she waited. "All right!" he shouted again. It was a chemistry set, the picture on the front of the box showing a boy grinning excitedly over a bubbling-over flask. "Thank you!" Jacob said, hugging their mother and then their father.
"Don't set anything on fire with that," her father warned sternly. "And keep it in your room, so you don't ruin anything but your own stuff."
"I will," Jacob promised, and he ran off toward his room with it before anyone could stop him.
Their father laughed and opened his box. It was, in fact, a tie: a dark blue one with thin lighter blue and white stripes. "It's perfect, dear," he said, kissing their mother on the cheek.
Edith let Leah go next. She had a thick novel by an author Edith didn't recognize, but Leah seemed to be very excited about it. "Thank you!" she said.
Finally, Edith opened her gift, fully expecting to be disappointed; she didn't think her parents had any idea what she was interested in. Not that she'd given them any kind of a list, either. All she could think of that she wanted was to graduate from high school and get out of here.
It was a DVD. The title of the movie was "But I'm a Cheerleader." It showed a girl dressed in pink and a bunch of cheerleaders showing off behind her. Cheerleading? Edith hadn't expected much, but did her parents really think she liked cheerleading?
She flipped it over to the back and read the text. Then she blinked and read it again. She looked up at her parents in astonishment. It was a lesbian movie. "Thank you," she managed to say.
Her mother smiled fondly. "I'm so glad you like it." She pulled her into a tight hug, and Edith hugged her back, then her father, and took the movie up to her room to watch.