A Place to Belong
I'm so busy staring out of the window that I don't notice that John has come up behind me until he asks, "What's so fascinating outside?"
I turn to face him and accept the mug of hot chocolate that he hands to me, smiling with glee when I see that he remembered to put marshmallows in it. He grins and shakes his head, waiting for me to answer his question.
"I figure that if I stare hard enough, it might snow."
"Time and time again you complain about the cold. So I can't understand why you're so dead set on having snow for Christmas."
I move from the window to a displaced loveseat in the middle of my living room. It's been there since we put up the Christmas tree because I've been way too busy to think of a new place for it.
I grin at the memory of the day John helped me decorate the tree. Nora, Jessica and I all decided to drag Bo, Antonio and John upstate New York to pick out Christmas trees. The guys all complained about the cold and the fact that we wouldn't pick just any trees. We had to have three perfect trees and we shot down all of their suggestions. When we finally had our trees we went back to Llanview to decorate them.
That night was more than just about fun for John and I. We pulled out my Christmas ornaments and had a blast decorating the tree, but we also talked about past Christmases. The good and the bad. I felt perfectly comfortable about crying in front of John, which I did quite a few times. After that we fell asleep in the same loveseat that I'm sitting in now; with me wrapped in the safe and warm circle of John's arms.
I sigh and return from "dreamland" to find John looking at me with an inquisitive expression. "Where were you just now?"
"I was just remembering something."
He looks as if he is about to say something else about it, but he doesn't. Instead he asks me, "Are you going to answer my question?"
"You mean about the snow?"
"It's just that I can only remember one Christmas where it didn't snow, and I can tell you now that it wasn't a good one."
He's silent for a moment before turning to me with a mysterious light shining in his eyes and saying, " It's only Christmas Eve. It can still snow between now and Christmas morning."
I give him a dubious look. "I guess."
We sit in comfortable silence, finishing our hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols. I'm pretty near to dozing off when John jumps up and says, "Okay, time to go to bed. And telling me that you aren't tired won't work this time because, not only were you about to fall asleep now, if you don't go to bed Santa won't come."
I get to my feet with a small chuckle. "I'm not a little girl John. I don't believe in Santa anymore."
"Yeah, yeah whatever. Go to bed."
I start walking towards my bedroom, and turn back when I notice that John hasn't moved. "Aren't you coming?"
"I'll be there soon. I just have to do something."
I nod and continue my trudge to my room. I brush my teeth, slip into my pajamas and slide into my bed with a contented sigh. Before I know it, I find myself slipping into the land of Nod.
I awake to the smell of fresh coffee brewing and bacon, eggs and French toast... I think. I peek out the window and am disappointed but not surprised that there's no snow. I don't stay that way for long, because I highly doubt that my Christmas will be bad this year. I brush my teeth and put on my robe, traveling towards the scent of cooking food, where I know I'll find John.
On my way to the kitchen, I stop in the living room. And am stunned by the numerous emotions that spring up when I look at it. Overnight, my living room has been transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with snow and a snowman and icicles.
"Do you like it?" John's voice questions from behind me.
I turn with tears streaming down my face and kiss him with all the fierce passion that I feel for him right now. When I finally let go of him, he takes a deep breath and says, "Well I'll take that as a yes, then."
I let out a watery laugh. "I love it. I don't know what I did to deserve someone as wonderful as you, but I'm glad I did it."
"I think that I'm the one that's lucky."
That just opens up the floodgates.
John smiles and takes my face in his hands, brushing the tears off of my cheeks. "We can't have tears on Christmas. Especially not on our first Christmas together."
"Not even happy tears?"
"Not even happy tears. Since we're already in here, you might as well open your gifts."
He leads me to the Christmas tree, which has a good amount of gifts piled up underneath it.
"I hope that some of these are yours."
"I just dumped all the presents under here. But most of them are probably for you."
He hands me boxes from his mom, Michael, Marcie, Shannon, Nora, Bo, Jessica, Antonio and himself. I open all the other presents first, leaving his for last while I run to get the presents I got for him from where I hid them. He opens all of his other presents first, also leaving mine for last.
I watch with delight as he carefully removes the wrapping paper from the boxes and opens them.
He pulls out a football jersey autographed by all the whole Eagles team and two tickets to a football game on January 2. The look of absolute joy on his face gives me a great sense of fulfillment, and I know that even if I don't get another present for the rest of my life, I'll be happy.
"So do you like your presents John?"
He looks up at me with an enormous grin and says, "I love them. I couldn't have asked for anything better. Why don't you open your present?"
I pick up the closest box to me and open it to reveal the butterfly brooch that I'd been eyeing since the summer. I smile at him and give him a quick kiss before moving on to the next box.
In a bed of fluffy cotton lies a dainty, silver charm bracelet. John removes it from the box and fastens it around my wrist, beginning to explain each charm as he goes along. He runs his finger over a tiny martini glass and says with a grin, "This martini glass reminded me of the Palace. The night I got that award and you kissed me. And this football is from our first football game together. And this bowl is from the time when I was crazy enough to let you talk me into going for a walk in the rain and I caught a really bad cold. And you came over with chicken soup and a smile to make me feel all better. And this one..."
He doesn't get to finish his sentence because I lean over and kiss him again.
"Stop. Because if you keep going, I might be forced to cry again." I say with a laugh, getting up and heading towards the kitchen.
We eat breakfast and then spend the rest of the morning cooking dinner. We invited Bo, Nora and Matthew to dinner after hearing Bo and Matthew complain about Nora's disastrous holiday meals. They arrive shortly after 2 and we eat dinner. An hour and a half later, we're sitting in the living room stuffed so full that we can barely move. That is until I notice white flakes falling outside the window.
"Oh my God! It's snowing! A lot!" I exclaim.
Matthew, Bo and Nora turn to give me equally blank looks.
"It's been snowing since before we got here," Matthew tells me with a grin. "You think there's enough to play in yet?"
I jump up with a laugh. "You bet there is! Come on you guys, get dressed so we can go play in the snow."
Matthew quickly follows me to the hall closet to get his coat, and after exchanging brief glances, John, Bo and Nora follow behind us. We immediately separate into teams of boys vs. girls and even though there are three guys and just two girls, Nora and I manage to cream them in a snowball fight. Bo and Matthew get a chance to win, with the help of Nora, when they play against John and I. Maybe it's because John and I spent most of our energy throwing snow at each other.
While Matthew, Bo and Nora celebrate their victory, John pulls me closer to him and brushes my hair out of my face. I smile up at him.
"So you got your snow for Christmas."
"I like the snow that's in my living room better. Although it's gonna be hell to clean up."
"You don't have to worry about it. I'll clean it up."
"I wasn't worried."
He laughs and shakes his head. The smiles slowly fades and he starts to look serious.
"You know, you drive me half crazy with your stubbornness and your determination not to show how you really feel...
"That's the pot calling the kettle black." He smiles briefly and continues.
"... but despite all of that and because of that and much more, I love you."
"W-what did you say?"
"I said I love you."
It's pathetic and I know I'm going to yell at myself about it later, but I start to cry for the second time that day. And once again, John brushes the tears off of my cheeks with a wry smile, whispering, "You and those tears. I could have sworn that we agreed no crying on Christmas."
"Get used to it mister. Holidays are an emotional time and I reserve the right to express how I feel. By crying and saying that I love you too." The last part is said in a semi-whisper.
He pulls me into a tight embrace and kisses my forehead. I sigh in contentment, happy now that I finally have everything I've ever dreamed of. A successful job and what's more important, true love and a place where I belong. And being outside in the falling snow with the love of my life and friends that are practically family is exactly where I belong.