A Twelve Cities Christmas: Raspberry Vodka

How do the Maverick’s children relax during the holidays? Read on to find out. Featuring characters from T.J. Lockwood’s Urban Heroes.

AT SOME POINT IN MY CHILDHOOD I WAS TOLD THAT FAMILY was the most important thing a person could have. This sentiment brainwashed me to the point where I didn’t just live it; I believed it to be a doctrine above all others. These were people who were obligated to love and care for you without a second’s hesitation; unconditional love. That’s what it was called. Now, I don’t care who you are, the truth of the matter is that no one in this world owes you anything. Everything is earned.

Respect, love, consideration… none of these are obligations.

The smell of burnt peppermint fills the air and for the first time in a long while I’m uneasy. This isn’t the scene I thought I would be walking into.

Voltza’s turbines are changing speed. There’s no rest for the mobile prison, even at this time of year. My father is always wary of us letting our guards down. Last time we did St. Joseph’s fell.

Sorry, I took my eyes off it for a second.” My brother stands hunched over a small boiling pot, the contents of which look like the results of some strange lab experiment. If I didn’t smell the peppermint I might have thought that he was trying to make malleable slime.

I pause. Fynn?”

He waves his hand as if motioning for me to get back to whatever I was in the middle of doing. “It’s fine.”

I pull out one of the stools in the kitchen. “You sure you don’t need any help?”

He pauses long enough to consider my question and then shakes his head. “No, no, I said I’d make dinner.”

Sure, but if you need a hand—”

He sets his wooden spoon down between the stove top elements. “Cal, it’s fine. Just stay there and make yourself a drink. I’ve got this.”

What on earth is he making that smells like peppermint?

I glance over at the fully stocked mini bar across the room. “Well, which do you want?”

He pulls open the oven door. Smells like turkey. “Huh?”

I lean an elbow onto the counter and watch as he pulls the roasting pan towards him and pokes the avian carcass. “You want me to stay here or get myself a drink?”

He rolls his eyes and inspects the indicator in his right forearm. Looks like he upgraded his prosthetic again. “Always have to stir up some shit.”

I laugh. “Says the ultimate shit disturber.”

He tries to hide his smirk. “Me? Of course I am. It’s expected at this point.”

I chuckle. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.”

His facial expression shifts. “I know, but I can do this myself.”

Father wouldn’t approve of this. Every citizen of Voltza has duties in the city. We are all expected to maintain order both within and outside of its walls and yet Fynn and I agree that we need this. There is such a thing as burn out and we’ve both been close to it many times.

I make my way to the mini bar and set two glasses on the counter. The muffled swearing in the kitchen entices me to look back, but I don’t. My brother is trying to prove himself capable. If he says he can do it then I believe him. Sometimes I wish others gave him that same courtesy.

My father’s words echo in the back of my mind. Ice cubes first then the liquor. There’s an order to making a drink.

Just a single for me, please. My neuroconnections have been giving me some trouble.” The oven door opens again.

I shrug and grab a bottle of vodka. “What if I wasn’t making one for you?”

Oh come on, Cal. You’re way too predictable, and too nice for your own good.” He laughs. “One day it’s going to get you into a lot of trouble.”

I nod. “I’m ruthless when it counts.”

I know, but still. There’s nothing wrong with being just a little bit selfish.”

I pour the liquor, mix the drinks, and garnish each with a raspberry. “If you say so.”

I do.” He then begins fiddling with some dishes. “Should be ready in a few minutes. Just waiting for the extra stuffing.”

I pick up the drinks and set one on the counter next to him. He takes a big gulp then turns his attention to the turkey. I can tell by the colour that it is over, but my brother looks satisfied. He picks up a knife and carefully follows the joints with the tip. Four audible pops later and he’s carving the meat with confidence. No one would know that I was showing him how to do it a year ago. Family dinners weren’t educational when we were kids.

I step back as he finishes and moves to set the table. I feel like I’m in the way, but my brother has turned this dinner into a trial of acceptance. Stepping in for any reason would invalidate the effort he put in. I know Fynn. This is what he does.

Take a seat, I’ll grab the rest of the food.” He moves quickly.

I pull out a chair and sit down just as he returns with a platter of turkey in one hand and the dish of stuffing in the other. He sets them down, returns only for the veggies and gravy, then the room is calm. We start to fill our plates in silence.

The smell of roasted veggies compliments the turkey and stuffing, but it’s the gravy that pulls everything together. I smile at my brother, cut into my turkey, and put it in my mouth. He stops what he’s doing and watches me chew then swallow.

Not bad.” I take a sip of my drink.

He smiles and then starts devouring his own plate. “Not bad at all.”

The city is too high to see snow, but there is no mistaking that there are flakes falling somewhere below us. The air is a distinct cold you feel through the walls. I look out the window and see the sun almost completely set. It’s the little details which create the most distinct memories.

Despite what others believe, Voltza is home to more than just a prison.