Nick DeNeige maneuvered his car into its usual spot outside his condo building. The parking lot lights cast a soft yellow glow over the few cars that remained, each covered in a light dusting of white due to the softly falling snow. Other than a cat stealthily making its way along the side of a minivan, there appeared to be no one else around. Resting his hands on the steering wheel, Nick gave a quick glance at the dashboard: 10:37 p.m. He figured by now most people were either celebrating mass or enjoying time with family and friends.
“Great.” Nick sighed. “Another crappy Christmas alone.” He yanked the keys from the ignition, leaned his head back against the headrest, and briefly closed his eyes. “Christmas… I hate Christmas.”
Nick didn’t have any family. His parents were long dead and he had no siblings, so he’d learned to spend Christmas alone. Hell, most years his work as an EMS (Emergency Medical Services) medic for the City of Montréal kept him busy right through the holidays. The only time he’d take Christmas Day off was if there was enough manpower on the roster, but that didn’t happen very often. Most times the ambulance service was understaffed and needed as many emergency medical technicians on hand as possible.
This year, however, was supposed to be different. This year he’d planned on taking a few days off during the holidays to spend some time with his roommate and good friend, Gabriel Engel.
For the first time in a very long while, Nick had been excited about Christmas, because in the three years Gabriel had lived with him, they’d never spent a single Christmas together. His friend had always left to join his mother and father in whatever place they’d decided to spend the holidays. One year they’d go somewhere warm and exotic with beautiful white sandy beaches. Another time they’d head for snow-covered mountains so they could spend the holiday skiing or snowmobiling. This year, Gabriel and his parents had planned on leaving Montréal on December 29 to spend a week in Whistler, British Columbia, allowing the three of them to celebrate the New Year together.
However, much to Nick’s disappointment, plans had changed at the last minute, and Gabriel had rushed to get a plane ticket to leave on the morning of Christmas Eve instead.
Climbing out of his car, Nick shivered as the cold began to seep through his winter clothing. The weather announcer on the radio this morning said the temperature was going to drop down to -25 Celsius during the night. Nick figured it must be pretty damn close to that now. Lifting his bare hands to his mouth, he blew warm air into them and began vigorously rubbing them together in an attempt to keep them warm. He quickened his pace as he made his way across the parking lot toward his building.
While he rode the elevator up to the fourth floor, his thoughts drifted back to earlier that morning.