Author's Note: I wrote this as a Christmas eve present for my older sister. I figured I might as well post it. I know Christmas is already past and we're on to better things at this point, but oh well. I could have changed it to New Year's Eve to make it more current but I'm actually kind of lazy.
So here's a story for anyone still clinging to the last glimpses of Christmas spirit. (You know who you are-the one's who insist on playing Deck the Halls and Christmas Means Love even after the first of January.)
It's Christmas, Eve
"Happy Holidays, drive safely!"
It was Christmas Eve and my back was killing me, my feet felt like they were on fire and if one more person asked me where the dressing rooms were, I would probably sock them in the face.
"This stinks like my Aunt Mildred's feet," I hissed to Oliver, my fellow sufferer in green.
He laughed. "How does everyone have an Aunt Mildred?"
"She's not a real aunt, you see," I explained to him as I began ringing up the next person's purchases. "More of a proverbial aunt. Like the tooth fairy or something."
"Or like Santa Claus," Oliver pointed out.
"Sure," I agreed. "Like him."
Oliver replied with another chuckle and a shake of his head as he went back to chatting up his customers.
"Happy holidays. Have a good one, ma'am!" Oliver called to an older, botoxed woman who, moments before had been raging about our lack of kosher choices for Christmas cookies. Why someone would need kosher Christmas cookies was completely beyond me.
I glanced to the clock on the wall above the bright plastic Season's Greetings sign. It was six forty, which meant I had twenty minutes left of my shift.
"Hey, at least we're getting paid extra for this," Oliver said kindly from beside me.
I jumped at the sound of his voice. "Oh, yeah…" was all I could manage in reply before another customer snatched up Oliver's attention and I went back to my own building queue.
"Excuse me!" a horribly obnoxious voice greeted me as soon as I had turned around. A little red-faced balding man stood at the front of the line, a six pack of beer in one hand and a couple of crappy, last-minute Christmas cards in the other. "I have been waiting in line for the past twenty minutes, and now I see why!"
"You could have used the express lane, sir," I told him.
"And you could stop flirting and maybe do your job for once in your life. Now am I right?" he turned behind him as if waiting for the approval of the other people in line. No one mustered a reply, though a bunch of people were glaring at us. I wondered if this man realized he was holding up everyone else by going on his little tirade. Obviously he didn't care.
I rang up his items, bagged them and took his money. He snatched the bag from me and stomped off in a huff.
"Happy Holidays!" I called after him, quite cheerfully. "Mr. Scrooge," I added quietly.
Thirty minutes passed in a similarly tortuous fashion and Deon arrived to relieve me of my shift (ten minutes late).
"Sorry Evie, it's crazy out there," Deon said, sliding behind the counter to take over the register. "You okay, girl?"
I nodded wearily because all I wanted to do was take off this ridiculous smock and go home to a quiet dinner. I saw Oliver ducking out of his smock and closing his register down, much to the chagrin of several customers hoping to get in line there. I exchanged my own green smock for my have pea coat and donned my white knit hat for good measure before I headed out.
"Hey," Oliver said as he caught up to me at the door.
"Hey," I replied amicably as we stepped outside. A cold wind swept us and I pulled my coat tighter. "So, what are you going home to?"
Oliver grinned as we headed out toward the parking lot. "Oh, you know, an hour-long Rudolph special, some hot apple cider and plenty of loud family members."
I offered a tight smile. "That's nice."
"What about you?"
"Um, well, probably some pasta with pesto and an early night," I answered evasively.
"Really? No Christmas dinner? No Frosty the Snowman?" Oliver asked.
"Well, my mom's working late tonight and my dad doesn't get in until tomorrow morning, so…"
"So it's just you?" Oliver asked.
"Not just me, there's also Leila, my mom's toy poodle," I replied dryly, stopping at my car and searching through my bag for my car keys.
Oliver shook his head. "Who spends Christmas alone? Or even with a curly-haired, yapping dog? No way. Listen, come over to my place, you can meet all of my insane cousins from Florida who think that fifty-three degree weather is cold. We'll have apple cider, or hot chocolate if you prefer, my mom puts this really great peppermint candy on top, and you can see the old claymation Rudolph with Burl Ives. It'll be great!"
While all of those things sounded exponentially better than sitting at home alone and eating reheated pasta, I still found myself shaking my head. After all, he was just inviting me to be polite, he didn't really want me there with all of his family members and stuff. That would be super awkward.
"Thanks, but I'm actually looking forward to some peace and quiet after today," I answered with a smile.
Oliver's enthusiastic, almost childlike grin faded and he said. "Oh. Right. That makes sense. Okay. Have a good one."
"You too," I answered, and then ducked into my car and out of sight.
Traffic was horrendous and by the time I got home it was almost eight. My stomach was demanding to be fed and so was Leila. Though everything in my cupboard—from the microwavable chicken soup to microwavable mashed potato flakes—was completely unappetizing to me.
Finally deciding on the soup, I stuck it in the microwave and flicked on the TV as I waited for my meal to cook. The Food Network was showing a 30-Minute Meals special on Christmas dinners. It figured. Stupid Rachel Ray and her abundance of spices.
The microwave beeped and I leapt up to get my soup. Even though I had cooked it for the maximum time, it still tasted rather lukewarm.
Next to me, my purse buzzed. I reached into it and procured my beat-up old cell phone. I had an idea that I might be getting a new one for Christmas. I flipped open my phone and saw one new text message.
My address is 2148 Savory Road if you change your mind.
It was from Oliver. Clearly. Did that mean his invitation had been genuine?
"What do you think, Leila?" I asked the scrawny little thing. She was much too busy chowing down on Purina Dog Chow.
Figuring that tonight couldn't possibly get more depressing than it was no matter what I did, I gathered up my things and started to head out. I was halfway to my car when I realized I was still dressed in my Walgreen's-approved outfit. Which was definitely not very festive, not attractive. I raced back inside and took twenty minutes to brush my hair, reapply make-up and change into a cute green dress my dad had given me last Christmas (which I had worn that day and not once since).
I knew where Savory Road was from elementary school, when my best friend had lived there. It took me about ten minutes to get there and as I was driving slowly on the icy road, searching for number 2148, I saw one of the most gloriously lit up houses I had ever seen. Christmas lights were strung up on every tree, across every bush and on the eaves of the house itself. It took me two seconds to realize that this was 2148.
"Oh Lord," I said. Me and my mom's idea of Christmas decorations was a store-bought wreath on our door.
Still, I had to admit that the twinkling effect of the lights was rather welcoming. At least, I preferred it to the darkness of my own house.
I told myself I had gone insane at least five times between getting out of my car and going up to the front door of 2148. I knocked. Twice. My inner pessimist had succumbed to the lonely little girl inside of me. I could hear the festivities from within and I just about bolted when someone finally came to the door.
It was a woman who looked like she could be Oliver's aunt. Not his mom, because she was too young. She looked a little confused by my appearance there. I couldn't blame her. I wasn't caroling, I wasn't handing anything out and I wasn't delivering any food.
"Hello, dear," she said hesitantly. "Can I help you?"
"I, um…oh, well, I was just looking…at your lights!" I said suddenly, because somehow this was a lot less embarrassing than 'I am having the lonliest, most miserable Christmas Eve ever and I would like to crash your party and leech off of your holiday joy.' "They're beautiful."
"Well, thank you," the woman said, still cautious.
I cleared my throat. "Um, also is…Oliver here?"
Now the woman smiled. "Yes, he is. Are you a friend of his?"
When I nodded in affirmation, she turned around and hollered for Oliver.
"He's my nephew, hardly ever see him except around Christmas," the woman said brightly. "I'm Gina, by the way," she added.
"Eve," I answered, reaching out to shake her hand.
"What a lovely name!" she replied, still smiling in a kindly way.
"Where do you live, Gina?" I asked her as she beckoned for me to come inside, closing the door against the chill of the night.
"Florida," she answered, and I recalled Oliver saying something about cousins from Florida during his rant about Christmas Eve.
Speaking of whom…
"Eve!" Oliver appeared in the hallway, his eyes wide. "You came!"
Before I could so much as respond, he swept me up into one of the most enthusiastic hugs I had ever experienced. And I used to babysit twin boys, too.
"Nice to see you too," I replied as he pulled away. I caught Gina laughing at us over Oliver's shoulder.
"Come on, we're just having some pie now, my mom made it. We've also got peppermint cheesecake, that's store bought, and gingerbread cookies." Oliver ushered me into the kitchen, chattering away at my ear. He sat me down at a round table occupied by two little girls and a cheerful, clearly tipsy, older man.
"Joey, Izzy, this is Eve. She's my very good friend from work. Eve, this is Joey," he pointed to one little girl who seemed very concentrated on her cookies and milk, "and this is Izzy. That's Uncle Kent."
"Hi," I waved to them, feeling a bit awkward.
"Do you want a gingerbread cookie?" the girl named Izzy asked me. "It's Santa!"
I glanced over and saw a plateful of ridiculously decorated cookies. I mean, I am talking colored frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips, gumdrops, the works.
"Thanks, I think I'll have a Christmas tree one," I answered, not wanting to disappoint Izzy but also feeling like biting off Santa's head was a little bit too taboo for me.
I took a bite and the explosion of sweetness was every bit as painful as I had predicted it would be. I winced in Oliver's direction.
"Come on, why don't you meet my parents?" Oliver said. I waved goodbye to Izzy and Joey as we exited the kitchen and came into a bright, energetic living room, at the center of which stood a sparkling Christmas tree, not unlike the one I had recently taken a bite out of. Twinkling lights, dazzling ornaments and a shining star on top captured my attention so that when Oliver retrieved his parents, I was staring dumbly at the tree.
"You like our tree?"
I turned and saw a middle-aged couple, Oliver's mom and dad.
"It's beautiful. I don't have a Christmas tree at home," I told them.
"Oh? Why not?" Oliver's mom asked.
"Just ran out of time I guess," I replied with a shrug.
"Mom, dad, this is Eve. Eve, this is my mom and dad," Oliver introduced us expertly.
"Oliver told us he had invited a pretty girl," his mom told me. "We hoped you would show up. My brother's kids have all got their boyfriends and girlfriends here."
I glanced at Oliver awkwardly and saw that he was as red as I felt.
"Oh, no, we're not—" I started.
"Mom, Eve's just—"
"Oh," his mom said, understanding at once. "My mistake."
They left us after that, getting sucked in by some of the younger cousins to read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.
"Sorry about that," Oliver muttered, still blushing.
"Doesn't matter," I replied. "Now let's grab some pie. I want to see your room."
Oliver looked a little embarrassed but agreed amicably.
"I bet you have like, a dozen posters of the Beatles in there," I teased as we slipped into the kitchen. The first thing I had ever learned about Oliver was that he loved the Beatles. The second was that he hated to be called Ollie.
Oliver pretended to count on his fingers. "Actually, it's seven," he answered. "Good guess, though."
We tramped upstairs, plates of pie balanced on our hands, and went down the hall to Oliver's room, which was situated at the end.
"Hm," I said, surveying his room (which only actually had three Beatles posters, but he assured me at least one of his cousins had bought him another for Christmas). "It's smaller than I thought," I said at last.
Oliver smiled and crossed the threshold to sit in the spinning office chair by his desk. A Mac laptop sat on his desk in front of it. I sat down, cross-legged, on the bed in front of him.
"So, this is where you do all of your evil planning?" I said with a raised eyebrow before taking a bite of pie.
"Actually, I do that in the basement. But this is where I sleep and stuff," Oliver replied.
"Fascinating," I answered. "Who's that?" I asked through a bite of pie, motioning towards a framed picture perched on his desk. The picture showed a very pretty girl in her late teens. "Girlfriend?"
Oliver turned. "That's Jenny, my sister. She's outside, probably smoking a cigarette with some kid she brought home."
"Ah, that seems to be a popular trend in the Fableton family," I said.
"What? Smoking cigarettes?" Oliver asked, nonplussed.
"No, bringing home random kids," I replied pointedly.
Oliver gave me an odd look. "You're not a random kid."
"No? How would you describe me, then?" I asked, flipping my hair in a sarcastic way.
"Um, well…five foot five…" Oliver began, rolling closer in his chair. "Brunette. Hazel eyes. Freckles." He rolled closer to the bed until his knees hit the side of it. "Adorable."
I felt like we were in a movie and he was about to reach up and stroke my hair and kiss me.
Instead what happened was that the door burst open and a lanky, red-haired girl came strolling in.
"Oliver! How dare you leave me alone with those awful kids!" she whined. Then, catching sight of us, she stopped. "Oh. Sorry for interrupting."
"You weren't interrupting anything," I replied, my voice pitched higher than usual.
Oliver backed away in his chair and surveyed the girl. "Jen, I was gone for like two minutes. And they're not that bad. Come on. Their our cousins. It's Christmas."
"Whatever. The next time one of them asks me to sing Rudolph the Red-gun Gangster, I am going to kill you," Jenny answered irritably.
"Rudolph the Red-gun Gangster?" I asked, stifling a giggle. "Isn't it, you know…the Red-Nosed Reindeer?"
Oliver sighed and explained to me that he and his sister had come up with an alternate version to entertain their younger cousins…except that their parents didn't approve of it very much.
"They beg us to sing it every year," Oliver said.
"Every minutes, more like," Jenny put in. "Well I'll let you kids get back to…whatever. Just make sure you're not in the vicinity if I look like I'm ready to kill. Toodles!"
With a wave and a flourished twirl, Jenny left the room.
"She seems awfully nice," I said in my best goody-two-shoes impression.
Oliver chuckled, running a hand through his hair. "Jenny? She's just…outspoken. And had awful timing," he added quietly.
"Uh, nothing…look, Jenny's not the only one who's going to be mad if I stay cooped up in my room all night. Are you okay if we go back down?" Oliver asked.
"Of course! Why wouldn't I be?" I answered brightly. I wasn't about to tell him, but Oliver's vivacious, 'outspoken' family was much preferred to my own quiet, obedient mother and father.
We went down the hall and descended the stairs again. By the time we reached the bottom step, I realized that everyone in the living room was staring directly at us, including the kids and Oliver's mother who had been reading a book.
"The first victims!" someone said gleefully. "Go on, then!"
I turned to Oliver questioningly. "Oliver, what…?"
He was looking up, his cheeks bright red. I followed his gaze to the plant that hung above us. Green leaves…berries…was that holly?
"Mistletoe hung where you can see every couple tries to stop!" Someone in the room warbled, to the amusement of everyone else.
"We don't have to," Oliver said gallantly.
"It's all in good fun," I replied, feeling a tingle of what could only be described as holiday cheer. "I don't mind. I mean, that is…unless you do."
"N-no! I don't…mind, that is…I—"
"For god's sake, kiss her already!" I recognized Jenny's voice from the couch.
And at that moment, Oliver cupped his hands around my face and leaned forward, pressing his lips against mine. It was only for a second, and when he pulled away I felt a sudden mixture of embarrassment and regret. Regret that I hadn't properly enjoyed the kiss, since it had ended so quickly.
"I should, um…probably get going," I mumbled, blushing furiously and pulling away. The rest of Oliver's family had gone back to their cheerful chatter and laughter.
"You don't have to," Oliver said quickly, darting after me down the hall. "I mean, you don't have to feel, like…embarrassed. I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't have…"
"No!" I answered, whirling to face him. "I mean, it was mistletoe. What can you do, right? It's tradition." I let out a nervous giggle and continued to go down the hall.
"Right…" Oliver answered.
"But actually, I better go because my mom's getting back at ten and she'll probably expect me to be there," I said.
"Oh. Right," Oliver said again.
"But, um, Merry Christmas!" I said hurriedly, opening the front door. "I hope you get everything you asked for."
With that, I walked out the door and into the snowy night. Shivering and for a moment wondering if I should have stayed, I walked down the path to my car. I was fumbling with my keys when I heard it.
The front door opened and closed again. "Wait, Eve!"
It was Oliver, racing out towards me in the snow. He looked particularly adorable with his cheeks pink from the cold and white snowflakes dusting his strawberry blond hair.
"Yes?" I said, looking up at him.
He paused at the sidewalk, not five feet away from me.
"Oh, just um…Merry Christmas," he said vaguely.
"Right. You too," I answered, and we both just stood there. After a moment of silence, I spoke up. "You know, there's one thing I've always wanted for Christmas."
"What's that?" Oliver asked, hesitant, but also with a note of apprehension in his voice.
"To be kissed in the snow," I answered, feeling myself heat up yet again and wondering, hoping, that I was right and Oliver liked me just as much as I liked him. He walked towards me and I found myself not breathing.
"Is that right?" he whispered, standing so close I could feel the warmth of his body.
"That's right," I whispered, and then he pushed me against the side door of my car and covered my lips with his. Our kiss was much longer this time, and I had enough time to taste the peppermint on his lips and run my fingers through his hair.
We broke away, our breath creating a mist in the cool air.
"Merry Christmas Eve," I said, smiling.
"Merry Christmas, Eve," Oliver murmured in reply. And then he kissed me again.
End Notes: How about we continue the Christmas spirit on into 2008 and you send some Christmas spirited reviews my way.
(Okay, I admit it, I am one of those people who are still clinging...)