Chapter 15

Kevin and Arianell spent that weekend clearing out her apartment and moving all of her books and personal effects into Kevin's condo. The guestroom was morphed into a quasi-study that just happened to have a rather uncomfortable bed in it.

Having chosen a nice matching brown leather sofa and loveseat set, as well as a new dining room table and chairs, coffee and end tables and a few assorted lamps, the couple set out to spruce the condo up a bit. At Arianell's suggestion they also painted the walls - a pale sage green in the living room and a taupe in the dining room. She also managed a few feminine touches in the way of fresh flowers, throw rugs, a few blankets for the couches and a cute little basket for Poppy to sleep in.

December seemed to fly by in a whirl of final examinations, gift shopping, decorating and party attending. Kevin and Arianell were having a wonderful time enjoying the holidays together.

One Saturday afternoon, the topic of Christmas day came up. "Arianell, where are you going to be spending Christmas this year?"

Arianell, who had been wrapping some gifts on the living room floor, looked up, "What do you mean?"

Kevin made his way into the living room and took a seat on the couch, "Well, I mean where are you going to be? At your parents' house? With your sister? Here?"

"Gosh, Kevin I'd never really thought about it. I just assumed that I'd be here with you. But if you were thinking of going up to your mom's, don't let me stop you." Arianell's parents had spent the last three Christmases at their timeshare in Aruba. She had simply become used to being on her own.

"Well, to tell you the truth I hadn't thought about it either. I think my mom would like me to come, and even if she doesn't, I'd still like to see my brothers and their families. But, I'd like you to come along Arianell, if you want to, that is."

Arianell warmed. It was the little developments like these that made her realize how strong and important the relationship was to the both of them. "Thank you for the invitation, Kevin, but I'm not sure that I can. I've got a doctor's appointment early on the 26th and I wouldn't want to miss it."

"A doctor's appointment? Nelly, are you all right?"

Arianell looked up and smiled, "Yeah, Kev, I'm fine. But we women need to have check-ups, you know?" It was true that her yearly gynecological examination was coming up, but she hoped this time to talk to her doctor about birth control. Sleeping with Kevin, but not actually making love to him, was becoming increasingly difficult. And while Arianell still wasn't sure if she was ready to take that step yet, she knew that she wanted to be prepared whenever the time came.

"Oh. Oh!" Kevin blushed when he realized what she meant. "Well, I don't have to go to my mom's. It would be nice to have a cozy Christmas with just the two of us." He slid down to the floor and pulled Arianell into his lap.

Arianell wrapped her arms around Kevin's shoulders, "That sounds wonderful, Kevin. But please talk it over with your family first. I don't want to be the bitchy girlfriend that steals you away from them."

Kevin leaned down to kiss her softly on the lips. "There are many adjectives with which to describe you, but 'bitchy' is not one of them. However, if it'll make you feel better, I will talk to them."

Arianell cuddled closer to Kevin, "Thank you."


"Merry Christmas, beautiful" Kevin said as he leaned down to kiss Arianell.

"W-What?" She was still in a daze from the night before. Kevin's family had decided to drop in on the couple as a surprise and hadn't left until 2 a.m.

"Wake up, sleepyhead. I want to open gifts!" He started bouncing on the bed like a little kid trying to get her attention. Even Poppy hopped over to lick Arianell's face.

"Okay, okay. I'm up." Arianell's actions did not mimic her words as she merely turned over and buried her head in the pillows.

Not letting the opportunity get away, Kevin leaned down and scooped her up into his arms. "It's Christmas and it's time to get up!"

Arianell squealed in delight as Kevin brought her into the living room and laid her down on the sofa. She looked over to the tree and noticed that it seemed to be swimming in a sea of presents. "Oh my Kevin! That isn't all for me is it?"

Kevin had moved into the kitchen to prepare her a cup of coffee. But hearing her question, shouted back, "Of course it is!"

She just sat there in shock waiting for Kevin's return. Arianell thought to what she had gotten Kevin and felt bad. She was strapped for cash as it was, and with the gifts for her family, there hadn't been much left for Kevin's gift. By the time Kevin reentered the room, this time holding a cup of coffee, Arianell was in tears.

Seeing her sitting there crying, Kevin placed the mug on the coffee table and came to sit next to her on the couch and drew her into his arms. "Baby, what's the matter? Are you missing your family?"

Arianell was touched by his concern. "No, it's not that. Its just- its just that I didn't get you nearly as much stuff as you got me. I-I just couldn't afford it. Its not because I didn't want to, but with school and everything."

"Shh. It's okay. Arianell I don't need any gifts. I've got everything that I want in this world right here in my arms."

Arianell tightened her grip on him. "You know, if it would make you feel better, I could just take back all the stuff I got you."

She knew he was teasing and looked up at him, "Okay, okay. I get it. Just know that I would give you the world if I could. You mean everything to me, Kevin Luper, everything."

Kevin's face turned somber, and whispered a quick 'I love you' before kissing her on the forehead.

"Okay, well, you better start opening or you might miss your appointment tomorrow!"

And so, Arianell began the arduous task of making her way through the entire pile of gifts. Kevin had bought her things that he knew she wanted (a few DVDs, a bread machine, a bottle of her favorite perfume), those that she needed (flannel pajamas, a backpack, woolen socks - she had cold feet!), and a few luxuries that she would never treat herself to (a laptop and a gift certificate for a day at the spa).

After opening all of her gifts, Arianell felt a little shy bringing Kevin the singular box that held her Christmas gift to him. He pulled her close to his side as he opened his gift.

Inside he found a large picture frame filled with a collage. As he focused more on the individual pictures, he noticed that they were shots of the two of them, mostly together, spanning the time from the day they met first year all the way up to the dinner party they had attended two weeks ago. It was the most heartfelt and wonderful gift Kevin had ever received.

He turned to glance at Arianell and saw a look of nervous expectation on her face. Carefully placing the picture on the table, Kevin hauled her into his arms. Burying his face in her hair he choked out, "I love it, Nelly. Thank you." It was the closest anyone had ever brought him to tears.