It was Christmas time when they met. People were bustling around, snow frosted the ground and rooftops, and ice made the sidewalks a moving hazard. She was carrying two big boxes in to the post office and he was rushing out; the door swinging open bumped her and threw her off balance, throwing her hard to the ground.
As he lifted the boxes to the side and asked her if there was anything breakable inside, his face came into clear view, and she wasn't sure if it was the fall or him that suddenly made her head feel like it was swimming. His curly brown hair and crystal green eyes enchanted her and she thought she heard the hallelujah chorus. He waved his hand in front of her face, and she realized she had been staring. She shook her head a little, which hurt, and apologized.
"Your wrist is pretty swollen," he told her, gingerly holding her arm in his cold hands. "You should get it looked at."
"I'll be fine. Thank you though." She smiled through the pain and attempted to lift the two boxes again.
"Here, let me. It's the least I can do." He effortlessly lifted the boxes and she held the door open with the arm that didn't hurt. They had to stand in line for nearly twenty minutes, but they made introductions and small talk while they waited. By the time they were leaving, the pain was making her dizzy, so he insisted on taking her to the hospital. Despite every warning of not getting into cars with strangers, she agreed.
She called her father on the way to let him know, and he offered to get her car from the post office, if her friend didn't mind taking her home. He didn't, of course.
The hospital was busy, as was to be expected this time of year. It was early afternoon when they entered the emergency room, and past dark when they left. After some x-rays, the doctor informed her that she had a minor fracture in one of her wrist bones that wouldn't take more than four weeks to heal. The apologies started again, but she stopped him.
"Accidents happen," she assured him.
He smiled back at her, enchanting her all over again. He excused himself to make a phone call but was right back at her side after just a few minutes. He dropped her off at home after that, thanking her for a great day and signing her cast with his name and number.
Their friendship flourished quickly via text messaging and long, late night phone calls. They would meet for coffee or lunch, but the relationship was never more than platonic. She found herself falling for him and after just a few months, she knew she loved him. She wanted, very badly, to tell him how she felt but didn't dare risk the friendship she now held so dearly.
Three months after they met, she was out to dinner with her parents and brother, and he was there. Her face lit up as she greeted him, and he looked excited, but tense at the same time. After a couple of minutes, another girl joined him in the lobby, looking at him questioningly. He made the necessary introductions, but the second girl had a title.
"This is my fiancée," he told her.
Shock and hurt came over her. She wanted to make a scene, to demand the reason why he hadn't told her before now. Her father called her name though, and took her attention away. She didn't even turn around to look at them again; his fiancée was so completely in love, and he seemed to be, too. She didn't know how she could've missed it.
For a week, she ignored all of his communications. He left her voicemail messages begging her to talk to him and apologizing for not telling her sooner. Finally she sent him a long email, and she told him everything. She told him how she felt about him and why she felt betrayed. She never heard back from him.
Months went by and again Christmas was coming around. She hadn't forgotten him, but felt like he had forgotten her. Then there was the day he showed up on her doorstep in the mid-afternoon on the day exactly one year after the post office incident. She was baking up a storm and flour was smudged on one cheek and under the other eye. Her bright smile slowly faded as she realized who it was standing there.
"I didn't think I'd hear from you again," she confessed, quietly.
He ducked his head. "I know. I'm sorry for that. I miss our talks. I miss being around someone who accepted me for me."
She shrugged. "You'd think your fiancée would do that for you."
"We're not together anymore. We haven't been for awhile." He paused and fiddled with the paint chipping on the doorframe. "She found the email you sent me. Instead of agreeing with her that I shouldn't be friends with you, I defended you. She asked me if I felt the same way, and I couldn't lie to her."
She couldn't form words. This was a dream. It had to be. If she wasn't frozen in place, she would have pinched herself to be sure.
"I do love you," he told her, stepping in to the house and finally making her move. "I love you so much, I don't know how to not think about you all the time. I'm really ... confused about some things, though, and I need to spend some time away."
"Then why tell me any of this at all?" she asked, tears marring her eyes.
He cupped her face in his hands and forced her to look at him. "I have to have things straight so that I can come back here and be with you. I want to do this right."
He kissed her forehead and promised to be back the next Christmas. She watched him go, immediately concerned when he turned in the driveway to look at her. He looked at her like he'd never see her again.
After a couple of months of him being gone, she tried to call him, but the number was disconnected. She tried to email him but the message came back as a failed delivery. He'd disappeared.
Christmas came and went again, without him. What used to be her favorite holiday was now nothing but a bitter disappointment. As the months went on, other boys came to her doorstep, but she turned them all away. Only one boy, the one with the curly brown hair and crystal green eyes, was the one she wanted to see.
Another Christmas went by without him, and then another. She completed her college years and decided this would be the last Christmas she spent living with her parents. She had realized she stayed only so that if he did show up, he'd know where to find her. After three years of waiting, she was giving up on him.
The artificial tree in her living room sparkled with multi-colored blinking lights. The paper plate angel she'd made in preschool that seemed to hold out year after year was set gingerly at the top of the tree. Ornaments from before she was born to ones her family had collected just in the last few years dangled from the trees branches. Snow glistened in the yards and streets outside, and frosted rooftops through the city. Beautiful wrapped and decorated packages were carefully arranged under the tree, waiting for the next morning when they could be opened.
She took the blanket and the pillow from her bed and curled up on the couch. She tried to read a book when she couldn't sleep, but she couldn't concentrate. It was so hard to give up on something she had put so much effort, so much time, into believing and hoping for. She wished now that she would have listened to her friends when they cautioned her against keeping him in her heart for so many years. Silent tears fell down her face as she watched the lights sparkle and blur on the tree.
The snow started to fall harder outside her house, laying a fresh coat of white over everything. She watched it come down, and is slowly lulled her to sleep. The knock on the door barely woke her; her father came from his room and opened the front door, a faint smile gracing his face. He shook his daughter awake.
"He's here," her father whispered. She sat up slowly not exactly sure who her father was speaking of at the time. She shook her head to try and wake up more, and saw him standing in the entryway of her house. He was covered in snow, but just as beautiful as ever. Her father excused himself back to bed, leaving her standing there, slightly dumbfounded.
"I'm a little bit late," he mumbled.
"Yeah, only about three years, though, so it's okay." She crossed her arms over her chest and willed her eyes to glare at him. The truth was she wanted to throw herself into his arms and beg him not to leave her again.
"I never meant to hurt you. I swear. I just … I couldn't figure out what I was doing with my life and I wasn't going to drag you into that. When I was with her, I became this person that I never meant to be and who I never wanted to be. I wanted to be me, all the time. The person I was when I was with you or talking to you." His eyes pleaded with her to understand.
"So you think you can just come back in here and expect me to be single? Or now you just want to be friends?" She was trying so hard to be mad at him, but she could feel defeat already overcoming her.
He rubbed the back of his neck. "Honestly, I didn't think about that, I just figured that, you know …"
"That I would've waited for you?" she said.
A sad look crossed his eyes and she couldn't even try to be mad at him anymore. She walked slowly to him and pulled his coat off his shoulders, laying it on the back of the couch.
"Well, I did. Wait for you, I mean," she whispered. He grinned and held her face in his hands. Their lips met, gently at first, and then with more earnest. She pulled away and led him to her room. They cuddled together in the bed, and sleep seemed to find her so much easier in his arms. Before she could drift off, he put a hand under her chin and turned her to face him.
"Merry Christmas, baby," he smiled, once again bringing their lips together.
A/N: Just a short little Christmas one-shot that I came up with the other day. Hope you all enjoy it. Happy Holidays!