Chapter 1 - Holiday

"Pixie!" I called.

The blond girl looked around in surprise, then grinned broadly and ran across the baggage claim area, long coat flapping around her waist, dodging porters and travelers alike to collide into me and wrap her arms about me.

"Ben!" she said, breathlessly. "I wasn't sure you'd come."

"And miss seeing my favorite cousin? Why ever wouldn't I?"

"It just seems so long since we've seen you," she said.

"Two years, I think," I said. "You were fifteen."

"Three, then," she corrected me. She disentangled herself and straightened her coat. In spite of the sprint across the terminal, she'd become an elegant young woman since I last saw her, straight hair cut short, high-necked black sweater under her mauve coat.

"Wow," I said. "My pixie grew up."

"Pixie. No-one has called me that in years," she said.

"Would you prefer I call you Sarah?"

"No, not you, Ben," she said. "It wouldn't seem right."

I'd given Sarah the name Pixie when I was nine or ten. She must have been about seven, and had bone-white hair, blue eyes, a small but angular nose and pointed chin. As a woman she was little different. Her chin was softer, perhaps, but her face was still elfin, her hair a very white blond.

She used to live only a mile or so from my house. Her mother was my mom's first cousin, though we called her Aunt Eloise, and she and her husband Todd were good friends of my parents. But a few years ago, Aunt Eloise was appointed to a chair at a Midwestern university, and the family left the state. We had only seen them once or twice since then.

This Christmas, they'd invited me to stay. Aunt Eloise still talked regularly to Mom, and they'd cooked up the idea between them. And I was happy to accept. Sarah had always been a good friend, more like one of my sisters than a cousin. Besides, I'd never experienced a deep Midwest winter.

"You have any more bags?" asked Sarah.

"More? You don't think these two are enough?" I asked, indicating the huge suitcases I'd brought.

"Just checking," she said, grinning. "With the size of those cases, anyone would think you were expecting cold weather."

"So how are we getting to your place?" I asked.

"I'm taking you, of course," she said. "Here, I'll help with your bags."

She took my small carry-on bag and left me the two cases. "Thanks a lot," I said, and she grinned again as she led me across the crowded terminal.

Before passing the exit, she paused to re-wrap her scarf, fasten her coat, and put on a pair of sunglasses. I was wearing a sweater and leather jacket, and as we left, the cold cut right through them. "Damn," I said, "I thought these would be warm enough."

"You should borrow one of Dad's overcoats while you're here," she said, opening the tailgate of a big SUV.

I lifted my heavy cases into the vehicle. "At least doing this warms me up," I said. "I can't believe you're driving now," I added, as I climbed in to the passenger seat.

"Jeez, Ben, I've been driving two years," she complained. "I'm not a little girl anymore."

She drove proficiently, through streets with snow piled on the side of the road, wipers running against the spray kicked up by traffic and the snow picked up by the wind over the drifts.

"What are our plans for the next few days?" I asked.

"My plans are to finish out the semester," she said. "I don't know about yours."

"You're not through yet?"

"Wednesday's my last day," she said. "Next year I'll get those long college vacations, too."

At her house, Sarah drove the car into the garage, and Uncle Todd joined us immediately to help with my bags. Inside, Aunt Eloise hugged me, and led me through to the room that would be mine for the holidays.

After I was unpacked and had a shower in the small connecting bathroom I finally felt warm again. I rejoined them, and we talked until dinner, then again into the evening. Finally, I excused myself, tired after the day's traveling, and went to bed.


I was reading, with the light on, when someone knocked on the door. I was confused for a moment, because it didn't seem to come from the right direction, but I said "Come in", and a moment later the bathroom door opened, and Sarah entered, wearing a heavy robe.

"My room's the other side of the bathroom," she said, "and I figured I didn't really want Mom to see me coming in here." She sat on the bed.

"I'm glad you came," I said. "Is everything okay?"

"Sure," she replied. "I just wanted to talk some more, without Mom and Dad. I haven't seen you in years, Ben, and you were always a good friend. You're like the big brother I never had, and I've missed being able to talk to you."

"You too," I said. "I love my sisters, but there's only one Pixie."

She seemed relieved as she lifted her feet onto the bed and leaned back against the headboard. We talked about her old friends, those few I knew, about what I'd been doing in college, and about her time in high school. She reminded me about the time she'd gotten me in trouble when she told Mom what her friend Jan had said.

"I never touched her," I said.

"I know," Sarah sighed, "she told me. But I was too ashamed to admit I'd been conned. If my mother had found out, I'd have been in serious trouble. I hope you can forgive me."

"Oh, Pix," I said, "I never blamed you. Besides, Mom believed me pretty quickly. She figured out I was too embarrassed to admit to not knowing what she was talking about."

Sarah chuckled. "Neither did I," she said.

"I'm sure you do now."

"Uh-huh," she agreed. "Listen, that's what I really want to talk to you about. She rolled over to face me. "I've been seeing this guy, but I'm having second thoughts about him. He's been pressuring me to... well, he told me if I go to college and I haven't, I'll be a laughing-stock, those were his words, a laughing-stock, and, and it isn't true, is it?"

She was obviously nervous, suddenly babbling like this. The contrast with the elegant young woman who'd collected me from the airport was so extreme that I almost laughed. "Slow down, Pix," I said. "I can't think as fast as you're talking." I grinned. "God, Pix, you shouldn't be telling me this stuff. I'm a guy. You're a very attractive little Pixie girl."

"You think so?" she said. "My boyfriend doesn't seem to think anyone else could."

"Bullll-shit," I said. "He's lame, and he's lying. I didn't say that because you were my cousin. I could wish that the girls I've dated were just half as lovely as you, Pix. But the other's bullshit too, no-one's gonna care if you're still a virgin Pixie. Who's even gonna know? You didn't really think he was telling the truth?"

"No, but sometimes he can be very convincing. If he wasn't, I'd have dumped him months ago."

"Well, now you know," I said. Then I raised my eyebrows. "And now I know too, my eighteen-year-old elf is still a pure Pixie."

Sarah grabbed a pillow and hit me with it. "Shaddup," she said.

"Hey, quiet," I said, "your parents will wonder what we're doing. And if they come in now they'll see how your robe is coming unfastened, and all your virtues are on display."

She squeaked and grabbed at her robe, then realized it was firmly closed. She flushed bright red, then grabbed the pillow and hit me again. "You asshole," she giggled. Then she leaned over, kissed me on the lips, and scurried back through the bathroom door.


Aunt Eloise took me out into the town the next day, in the short daylight hours, battling the snowdrifts and ice on the sidewalk. I bought gloves and a coat for me, and did some Christmas shopping. With her help I picked out a sweater for Uncle Todd and a Creed CD for Sarah. For my aunt, I visited a bookstore without her to buy a Robin Schone book that Sarah told me she'd been wanting.

Sarah came home just after four, but she vanished into her room almost immediately, telling us she needed to make a phone call.

She came back scowling. "I've got to go out, Mom," she said. "Gary's in one of his moods again, I can't deal with him by phone."

"Gary?" I asked, when she'd left.

"Her boyfriend," said Aunt Eloise.

"He seems like a problem," I commented.

"He is," said my aunt, "and I think she knows he is, but she needs to figure out for herself what she's going to do about him."

I tried to tell myself I was feeling discouraged because Gary was a jerk and I was just disappointed on her behalf, but the truth is I was more than a little jealous that she had picked an evening with her boyfriend over staying home with me. It wouldn't have been any better if Gary had been the nicest guy in the world. Worse, more likely.


Sarah returned just before bedtime. She seemed quite pleased with herself, but wouldn't say anything about what had happened.

Again, shortly after I'd bade everyone goodnight, there was a soft knock on the bathroom door. "Come in, Pix," I said, and she scurried over to the bed in her robe.

She plonked down beside me, then frowned. "No, I'm not gonna make you peer up at me," she said, bounced back off the bed, peeled back the sheets and slipped in. "I dumped him."

It took me a moment to understand her. "Gary?" I asked.

"Yeah, he was at me again, trying to tell me he was my great hope for happiness. I've had enough. Screw him."

"You did?" I asked in mock surprise. "I thought you decided against it."

She grabbed her pillow and hit me with it.

"What is this, our nightly pillow fight?" I asked.

Grinning, she, set the pillow right against mine and lay down on it, sliding closer to me. "Thanks," she said.

"For what?"

"For helping me to believe I didn't need this guy."

"I don't want to get in your way, Sarah, but he doesn't sound like he's good enough for my favorite cousin."

"I've never loved him, Ben, but he says he loves me. I guess it scares me a little that I might never find someone who really does."

"You already have, little Pixie," I said. "You know I love you like one of my sisters, and even though that isn't what you need, if I love you, other guys will."

"That's sweet," she said. She moved still closer, hugged me, and kissed my neck. Her skin smelled sweet, not the fragrance of perfume, just a soft feminine musk. I held her, and we lay wrapped in each other's arms, until she gently kissed my eyelids and disengaged.


After school on Tuesday, Sarah seemed very subdued. When she looked at me, her expression was downcast. I couldn't really talk to her in her mother's presence, so I said, "Hey, Sarah, do you want to go throw some snowballs? Or whatever you do in this weather."

"It's dark already," she objected, "and very cold."

"So, do y'all just sit inside all winter? Doesn't sound much fun."

She shrugged. "Okay, but remember you asked."

I went to my room, added an extra tee shirt under my shirt and sweater, and changed into the long underwear Aunt Eloise had made me promise to bring. My boots were a tight fit over my thick socks, and they weren't made for cold weather, but they were waterproof, and I didn't have another option. With my new coat, I was ready when Sarah returned, buttoning her fur-lined overcoat.

"We'll be back soon, Mom," she said, "I figure five minutes will be enough for him."

It was snowing as we left the house, the gusting wind making the flakes dance. My new coat did a fair job of keeping the wind from me, but my face was pricked by little icy needles.

My boots were useless, not so much because they were cold as because they had no grip on the icy ground. I fell on my butt even before we left Sarah's yard. After that I tried to step more carefully, but still slipped occasionally. Sarah took my arm to steady me.

"So, what's the problem?" I asked her.

She sighed. "He's been spreading stories about me," she said.

"'He' being Gary the geek?"

"Yeah," she said. "He told his friends we've been doing it all along, that I can't help myself. They've been giving me strange looks today, and one of them asked me to a Christmas party. I thought it was just because we'd broken up, but one of them told my friend Steph what was really happening."

"Oh, sheesh," I said.

"He said last week we were doing it behind the locker rooms, and I made myself late for English class. I was late, and everyone remembers me arriving after class started, but it was because I was helping clear up a mess after someone dropped a beaker in Chemistry. I'd told him about that, of course."

I nodded and squeezed her hand.

"And he says... he says that I'm not very good."

She sniffled, and I realized she'd started crying. I put my arm around her. "It won't last, Pix," I said. "By next semester they'll have forgotten all about it. And your friends, your real friends, they won't believe the stories."

"They don't," she admitted.

"Besides," I turned my face to whisper into her ear, "no-one who looks at you is going to believe you're not good. You're a very sexy virgin Pixie."

In the weak light it was hard to tell, but I'd swear she was blushing.

"You only have another day, right?" I continued. "You can survive that. And if they haven't given up after Christmas, make a joke out of it. Like, if he had gotten you behind the locker rooms, what would have made you late was the time it took to stop laughing. Or if you hear that he was disappointed, say 'That's the problem with fantasies, they're only as good as your imagination.'"

"I guess I can try."

"You said it yourself," I said. "Your friends don't believe it. Eventually no-one will. But what matters is that you know there's only one opinion of you that counts, and that's yours."

"Yours, too," she said, sniffing.

"To a point, perhaps," I agreed, "and your parents, but really only yours. I think what's upsetting you is that you're thinking you might have avoided this. Well, maybe you could, if you'd never dated him, but if you'd gone to bed with him, it would be the same, or worse. And even if somehow he wouldn't have done this if you'd slept with him, you'd know, and that's what I mean, what would your opinion of you be?"

"Awful," she admitted.

"And that would be much worse."


"So remind yourself that you did the right thing, that Gary has now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you did the right thing, and whatever the idiots at school do, you can feel good about that."

I felt her head bob in agreement. Then she stopped and fished a crumpled tissue out of her coat pocket to wipe her face. "Are you cold?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Do you want to go back?"

"Do you?"

"I don't want Mom to see that I've been crying. Could we stay out a few more minutes? I can rub some snow on my face and it'll look like I've just stayed out too long."

"Okay," I agreed. "Why don't you show me how to make a snowman?"

She smiled up at me. "Okay."

We finished circling the block, and started rolling snow around in the yard. There was enough illumination from the street light and the windows of Sarah's house to see what we were doing, though I stumbled and fell into the flower beds. The rose bush scratched my cheek, and I got snow in my hair and down my neck.

When we'd finished the second, smaller, ball for the snowman's head, I lifted it on. My hands and toes were freezing. "Let's decorate it tomorrow."

"Okay," she said, and scooped up some soft snow to wipe her face, then rubbed herself roughly dry with her scarf. "Let's go in."

Aunt Eloise greeted us with a grin. "You look like you rolled in the snow, Ben," she said. "You're shivering."

"I think I did," I agreed, "snow and rose bushes."

"Mom," said Sarah, "could I build a fire in Ben's room?"

"Sure," said Aunt Eloise, and Sarah led me right back out into the cold to collect wood.

Sarah took charge of starting the fire while I peeled off my coat and gloves. I changed in the bathroom into clean, dry clothes, but I was still shivering when I rejoined her. I took over the fire while she changed, and it was burning vigorously when she returned, carrying two mugs of hot chocolate. "Mom sent this to warm us up," she said.

We sat side by side on the floor, warming up, drinking our chocolate, and occasionally talking. After an hour, maybe more, Sarah stood. "I'm going to say goodnight to Mom. You don't mind if I come back later?" she asked.

"I hope you will," I said.

When she returned in her robe, I was still enjoying the warmth of the fire. Sarah frowned at me. "I thought you'd be in bed."

"Oh, I got too comfortable here."

"Well, you can be comfortable in bed," she said. "Hurry up."

I took my pajamas into the bathroom, changed, and returned. Sarah was between the sheets in her nightdress, but her robe was on the floor. I climbed into bed, and she held up the sheet, inviting me to snuggle close.

The nightdress she wore was long but thin, almost sheer, shaping itself to her. I cleared my throat. "Jeez, Pix," I said, "I think I shouldn't see you in that."

"That's easy to solve," she said. Her body arched as she reached behind her, pulling the fabric tight to her breasts, darker where it pressed against against her nipples. She turned out the light.

"I'm not sure this is better," I said, as she wrapped herself around me.

"Shhh," she said, and kissed my neck.

I stroked her back, acutely aware of the smoothness of her skin, and the softness of her body against mine. She kissed my lips, then buried her head against my shoulder. "You seem very tense," she whispered.

"Maybe a little," I said.


"I guess I'm uneasy with this, Sarah."

"You called me Sarah," she complained. "Don't you like your Pixie anymore?"

"I do, Pix," I said. "I like my Pixie more than I think I should."

"More?" she murmured, then kissed my cheek. "Then relax a little, and show me how much."

She kissed my lips, pushing them apart with her own. Her hand slipped behind my neck, holding me to her, and my heart was thumping as I caressed her back and her neck. Her breasts were pressed so tightly too me I fancied I could feel them shake with my pulse, or maybe hers.

Losing myself in the kiss as her tongue brushed mine, I ran my hand down her back, over her butt, feeling the line of her panties under her gown. Then back up, over her waist and ribcage, under her arm... and she twisted slightly away so that my fingers would brush her breast.

At her invitation, I stroked her breast with my fingertips, then, reluctantly, moved my hand away, scared to do more.

Sarah rebelled, but not at my touch, at the lack of it. She released my neck to grab my hand and move it firmly back to her breast, and she sighed as I squeezed it.

Pushing me to my back, she rolled onto me. Her chest was above mine, sandwiching my hand against her breast, her legs still beside mine, her kiss pushing my head into the pillow.

Releasing her breast to hold her to me, I caressed her butt, her back, and the edge of her breasts with both hands. She started to lift her legs over mine, and her thigh caught my cock, the erection I'd been trying to keep hidden pressing unmistakably against her leg.

I jumped, and Sarah backed away a little. "I'm sorry," I said.

"For what?" she asked, sounding amused.

"You may be my cousin, but all my body knows is you're a very lovely girl."

"Do you think I don't know what I'm doing? Don't you like it?"

"You know I do, and you know I think we should stop," I said.

"I'm not your little sister, Ben," she said. "It's time you realized that. Although maybe you're right, if not for the reasons you think." I felt her nose brush mine. "In a moment."

Her mouth fastened against mine, and she let her body press into mine over its whole length. She moved her hips against mine as she devoured me, arousing me almost to orgasm. Then she rolled off me. "Goodnight, Ben," she said. "Dream of me."

"I will, Pix," I said.