Miss Pauling's First Christmas

Her desk was buried in presents. There were only nine of them, but some of them were large. It was December 25th.

Miss Pauling wasn’t a stranger to extravagant gifts. Growing up, her family’s Christmas had always been a large, public affair, with extended aunts and uncles and cousins, and both sets of grandparents, crowded into her parents’ home. She only liked one set of grandparents. Papa Helton was her very favourite.

Her parents had always seemed to treat the occasion as a time to show off just how excessively they pampered their daughter. Porcelain dolls, a new bicycle, dresses of lace and silk and taffeta. Never mind that she’d asked for a chemistry set. Never mind that she wore an itchy, woolen school uniform for nine months of the year in a Catholic boarding school in upstate New York. Gifts that were always slightly babyish, for a little girl, long after she’d started to become a young woman.

She was alone in the office, and there was no need for decorum, no politely watching crowd of relatives to delicately unbox things for, exclaiming with exhausting, feigned delight each time. This was the first Christmas in years for which she had been genuinely, incredibly excited. And completely, totally surprised.

Miss Pauling was nothing if not meticulous, though, even in the throes of Christmas morning.

Well, this first one was just a crate of beetles. Like, a big crate. Tightly sealed, a screen stapled over the top when she’d found her crowbar and pried the lid off. There was a chunk of raw meat, rotting, still clinging to a chunk of bone. A lot of beetles. Okay. But there was a note, and it was a joint gift from Sniper and Demo. And she read it. And these were flesh eating beetles. And her face lit up. She couldn’t remember if she’d ever gotten a practical gift before.

She got her second one, in short order, from Soldier. A field shovel. Neat, handsome. Collapsible. All words she liked the sound of. And a lovely shade of drab olive green, with a leather sheath buckled over the blade, with the words “MISS PAULING” wood burned into the handle. Crudely, but lovingly. It was heavy and comforting, She had never hugged a shovel before.

Scout, just a box of candy. A big box. A big box of candy, from the very particular candy store in upstate New York, where the nuns had forbidden their students to go, but where she went anyway and spent all her money. Her favourite things, treasure after treasure, things she hadn’t seen or thought of or tasted in years. How had he remembered that, the name of an artisan candy store on the other side of the country? How had they even got to talking about it, she didn’t remember. Candy was sinful. God, was it ever. She should share, but it would be difficult.

Pyro, kerosene and matches. Her favourite brand of kerosene, and she’d always loved matches. The first time she had gotten scolded on the job, it had been for sitting with Pyro on her lunchbreak, the pair of them just taking turns lighting long, candle matches, enjoying the flare of light, the smoke, the smell. She would need to find him so they could split this box, too.

From Heavy, with a tag about it’s neck that said “Matroyshka” in his dark, Cyrillic handwriting. A wolf, carved from a piece of bone. Delicate, lovely. Wholly impractical, like holding a piece of poetry. She turned it over in her hands, a little teary. There was something about the strength of the lines, the shape of it. She had no doubt he had carved it himself.

Miss Pauling had to take a moment, to sniffle quietly.

Spy, a bottle of incredible looking wine and a pair of French silk stockings. Engie, a little toolkit for the back of her truck, a quart of the right kind of motor oil, and backup batteries for her radio. Medic, an antique German anatomy textbook, bristling with handwritten notes about dismemberment in his heavy, neat tectonic script.

Now she had to sit down in her chair and have a proper cry. How were nine bloodthirsty mercenaries also the sweetest men alive?

The Administrator cleared her throat from the doorway. “Miss Pauling, please attempt to compose yourself.”

Miss Pauling had gotten her “composing herself” skills down to nine seconds flat. A big, dramatic sniffle. “Sorry, ma’am. Christmas. First Christmas away from home.”

“Bah, humbug,” Dryly. Only somewhat sarcastic. “MIss Pauling, please draft a memo that informs the mercs of your home address—or more wisely, a post office box—so we don’t have to repeat the occasion of this much clutter when they find out about your birthday.”

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry, ma’am, I wasn’t expecting anything like this.”

“No, clearly not.” The Administrator paused. “I left you a little something, on the top right corner of your desk. Just small, a trinket. Merry Christmas, Miss Pauling.”

She burst into tears again. The Administrator sighed and left the room.

It took her another ten minutes to stop crying, to pick up the smallest box, wrapped with what was apparently the absolute bare minimum of effort demanded by the season. Purple wrapping paper. A severe, utilitarian bow.

And a lovely watch, gold-toned, squarish. Tiny, delicate hands. Not a woman’s watch, but still charming. Old. With a simple note, Merry Christmas, Miss Pauling.

Well, I apparently have missed the first HUNDRED of you who liked this, but that’s my bad. Anyway, thank you so very much for reading and liking it! I don’t know where you all got a hold of this. If you enjoyed this piece, you may also like some of my other short stories about Miss Pauling.

#BestGiftEver: Charitable Gifts 

9 of the best gifts that keep on giving

Feel great about the presents you’re giving this holiday and wrap up something that makes a difference in the world. With these nine gifts listed below, proceeds can go directly into the hands of commendable charities. From helping feed children with the purchase of a canvas tote to supporting anti-bullying in schools and communities by buying a graphic tee, gift one of these products below from TOMS, FEED, Kiehl’s and more!

1. TOMS Personalized Classic Canvas Slip-On in Red

Gift a loved one a pair of comfortable TOMS and have their name or initials embroidered for a personal touch. Every pair your purchase, the brand gives a new pair to a child in need. 

TOMS Personalized Classic Canvas Slip-On, Red

2. FEED Friendship Canvas Pouch

Wrap up this cute canvas pouch for a special friend. Each bag you buy provides 10 school meals to children in need.

‘Friendship’ Canvas Pouch

3. Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Collection

Shower someone in Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Collection and keep their skin extra hydrated through the cold season. The apothecary will be donating $100,000 to help provide meals to one million families on behalf of Feeding America.

Creme de Corps Collection

4. LemLem Amash Maxi Poncho

For the lucky ones about to jetset on a holiday vacation, give them something they can use on their trip like this swim cover-up. LeLem was founded by supermodel Liya Kebede and helps provide jobs to weavers and strengthen the economic independence in all of Ethiopia.

Amash Maxi Poncho

5. La Mer The Hand Treatment 

Help your mom or friend, heal their dry, cracked hands with silky hand treatment. For every purchase, La Mer will donate part of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

'The Hand Treatment - Breast Cancer Awareness’

6. ASOS Exclusive Charity T-Shirt with Play Nice Print

Gift something you’re passionate over. Help support and promote anti-bullying in schools and communities with this 'play nice’ ASOS x Diana Award tee. Diana Award is a youth charity set up in memory of Princess Diana that empowers thousands of young people each year to take positive social action in their communities.

ASOS Exclusive Charity T-Shirt with Play Nice Print

7. Michael Kors Watch Hunger Stop Oversized Watch

This Michael Kors rose gold-tone stainless steel watch is a perfect, classic everyday staple. With every watch sold, the World Food Programme provides 100 meals for hungry children in need. 

Watch Hunger Stop Oversized Runway Rose Gold-Tone Stainless Steel Watch

8. Kayu Jen Jute Straw Clutch

This casual clutch with stone clasp from Kayu donates a portion from every sale toward backpacks and school supplies for students in rural Cambodia.

'Jen’ Jute Straw Clutch

9. Laura Mercier Lip Glacé in Rose Hope

If you’re looking to gift just a little something, you can still make it count. With this Laura Mercier limited edition lip gloss, 100% of its profits will be donated to the Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund, whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research towards women with ovarian cancer.

Laura Mercier Lip Glacé, Limited Edition Rose Hope

Polka Dots

By Melrod Style

She wore an itsy bitsy teenie weenie little polka dot shift mini…

Even though you don’t often see me in polka dots, I am truly a fan. This shift dress (another favorite form of dress) is one of my new favorites because of how easy and comfortable it really is, plus the detailing on the sleeves make this dress even more special. And if you look closely, you’ll see a floral embroidery underneath the polka dots. Pretty neat, eh?! 


Follow Melrod Style on her blog and Instagram


‘Classic Wayfarer’ 50mm Sunglasses

Michael Kors Women’s Chronograph Blair Rose Gold-Tone Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch 41mm MK5263

RED VALENTINO polka dot dress

Polka Dot Shift Dress

Qupid Single Strap Chunky Heel Sandals