Kage Baker always swore to me she would not die in December.
A lot of people I love have done so. Friends, relatives, lovers, teachers, pets … it got to the point where I hated hearing about anybody dying in December, whether I knew them or not. I’m not the sort to read obituaries, and during December I don’t even want to be told about them. I assured Kage I’d dishonour her grave if she did that to me.
She always pointed out, rationally, that she had no intention of having a grave – not that she feared my rude comments with a can of spray paint, but because she understood it would just be too much for me to bear. Although I am also very clumsy with spray cans, and she could probably envision me firing things up for an impassioned remark and painting my own face green …
December’s just not my favourite month. I focus with great obsession on lights, deco, sweets, presents, festivals and good company; not because I am shallow (well, not entirely – jonesing for peppermint bark doesn’t mean you’re shallow) but because there are so many permanent holes in my roster of beloveds. Mind you, new friends keep being born – this year alone saw the introduction of three handsome young gentlemen: Connor, Jack and Alexander Kage. If Alexander doesn’t like being named for his Auntie, he can always pronounce it Cah-gay, and tell people it’s Japanese; but he’s got a certain steely-eyed determination to him that makes me think it will suit him just fine.
It’s just that December is so … so wintry, you know? So black ice, bare trees, dead-end-road cold. You need all the tinsel and glitter and coloured lights just to remind yourself that the sun will come back someday, and that some of the silence really is just sleep. Because it feels like the end of the world. And it’s raining today, steadily and very coldly, and more: the snow is down on the hills right above Glendale, and probably piling up here and there in Burbank, too. Burbank always gets snow.
It was warm in our little apartment by the sea, two years ago. Cold enough outside for frost ferns on the windows – Kage was thrilled – but warm and and safe inside. I had decorated madly and Kage was enthroned on the fold-out in the living room, where she could watch the lights and the sea and the fireplace. We had no idea that the cancer had spread, that the headaches would start soon and finally stop her breathing – and even if we had known, Kage would have refused to give in.
It was still December, you see. She would never, ever have left during December. Nor did she. She assured me she would stay, and she did so – hung on with her usual inhuman concentration and stuck it out with me. I know she was tired. Oh, by the middle of December, she was so very tired! But she stayed.
I think about that a lot right now, watching the rain come down and the Christmas lights glow brighter and brighter. It’s December. Not a time to go away.