It's Been A WhileMature

"Hey loser! Wanna help us set up the tree?", Mary shouted as I walked pass the living room. My two sisters were home now since it's the beginning of their Christmas break. They were lining up Christmas lights and tree decorations on the floor.

"Sure, whatever," I said sounding disappointed since I was just going to grab a snack in the kitchen then run back up to my room to have a How I Met Your Mother marathon. The two of them placed different ornaments like balls, angels, and teddy bears on the sides of the tree's leaves, while I was in charge of surrounding it with Christmas lights. After a few minutes, they were already satisfied with what they have done, so they called me to do my job now. I picked up the multi-color rice lights, started from the bottom of the tree going up, making sure that the twists and turns of the string of lights were clean and elegant to look at. Okay, I may be a little over-compulsive.

"There you go. Done. I'm going upstairs and enjoy my marathon, If you don't mind," I said as I walked towards the stairs. But then suddenly mom called my attention.

"Actually! I do mind. Could you do me a favor and bring these boxes of cookies I baked to your Uncle Joe's house?" Mom asked with a sweet smile on her face while handing me 4 medium-sized boxes filled with chocolate chip cookies.

"Wait--- why me?! Isn't Uncle Joe coming over here? I mean... he was here yesterday!" I said sounding worried as ever.

"Unfortunately for you, your dad and Uncle Joe went somewhere, and I don't know what time they'll be back. Just bring that to them now! It's freshly baked so they'll enjoy it!" Mom was now pushing me towards the front door.

"WAIT! Why can't Mary and Mariel do it?! They're older!" I shouted.

"Honey, this isn't about age. Now Gooooooo!" She pushed me harder towards the door. I wasn't walking anymore, I was just letting my slippers slide on the floor.

"Come on mom! They can do it! I mean, they're barely here during the usual days. I bet all of the neighbors would like to see how they're doing now!"

"No more, young lady!" She stopped pushing me since I was already outside at the patio, "I'm asking your sisters to do the other decorations outside. Now, just drop those boxes off, greet everyone, ask how they're doing, and go back home! How easy is that? Go! Socialize!" I looked at mom angrily, but she just gave me an annoying smile. I turned around and I heard mom closing the door.

Oh, whatever. Let's just get this over with. I crossed the road, not looking right and left anymore since there weren't any cars now. It was snowing a little too much today, it almost covered my ankle-high boots and it's still morning. As I neared the door, I can already here voices coming from inside. 

I pressed the door bell of apartment number 5B and waited outside. And as I waited there, I couldn't make up my mind about how I felt. I felt nervous because I didn't know who was going to answer the door. Somehow, I wished it was just Aunt Manna, so I could just politely say Hello, give the boxes and go back home. Honestly, I didn't want Jeff to answer it. I think it would feel awkward. I haven't talked to him, like a long conversation with him, for months now. We just greeted each other whenever we were outside. It's sad though, I mean, we just live right across each other. We hung out lots of times during the summer, but since school started that ended. There were even times when I think that he wasn't noticing me anymore. I was positive that he saw me already looking at him, but he just continued walking towards his car. 

I heard footsteps getting louder, the door opened, and I saw Cris. Phew! Thank you universe!

"Leena! Oh my gosh! I haven't seen you in a while! How are you?" She said while happily embracing me tightly. I hugged her back, holding the 4 boxes with just my other hand.

"Yeah, I know! I'm fine! You? How's school?" I asked, trying to sound as cheerful and happy as I can be.

"Oh boy, super tiring! You have NOOO idea! What are those?" She pointed at the boxes.

"Oh yeah, I just stopped by to give you these. Mom just baked them a while ago, I hope they're still warm," I said as I handed them the boxes.

"Oh my, yeah it's freezing outside! Come in, come in!" Cris took the boxes and leaned on the door, moving aside so I could go in, but I didn't want to. I just wanted to leave. "Mooom! Leena's here!"

"Oh no! It's okay! I just dropped those off, that's all," then I saw Aunt Manna appearing from their kitchen door, "Hi Aunt Manna nice to see you!"

"Leena! Please, come in! I'm making hot chocolate!" She said cheerfully. Actually, from the minute Cris opened the door, we kept talking loud and cheerful, it's like we have too much energy.

"Oh... no it's okay---"

"Come on! Don't be shy!" Aunt Manna was literally standing beside me and holding my arm, and happily escorting me towards the kitchen. Now I really can't escape. Cris went straight to the kitchen island to put the boxes. "It was really nice for you guys to give us your mom's delicious cookies. Thank you so much!"

"No problem Aunt Manna! So... just the two of you home?" Please say yes.

"Yes, Jeff's just picking Marion up from his friend's house. A play date or something like that. They'll be home any minute now." Ooooh, boy. That's good to know.

"... oookay." I took a sip of Aunt Manna's hot chocolate, which was delicious by the way. She even topped it with marshmallows. But, can I go now, please? Please, please, please? "So.... how are you guys comfortable here?" I asked with my very shy voice. I didn't know if it was the best time to ask that question, but I had nothing else in mind.

"Oh, honey. We're doing fine. Don't worry, right Cris?" I looked at Cris who was sipping her own mug of hot chocolate..

"Oh yeah! Don't worry, Leena. It's great here, warm and cozy. Even though the three of us siblings have to share rooms, it's kind of fun! Sometimes we're still up until 3 am watching movies and talking," Cris said looking honestly happy.

"Bonding time, huh? That's great!" Then suddenly, I heard a car pulling into their driveway. Please be dad and Uncle Joe. Please be our car!

"Oh, they're here!" Aunt Manna said excitedly. Everyone's jumpy today, so weird.

"Uhm... who's here?" I asked, trying not sound nervous.

"Jeff and Marion," Cris replied. Oh, geez, thank you universe. I just wanted to stand up from my chair and leave. "I'll open the door." Cris stood up and went straight to the front door, while Aunt Manna untied one of the boxes of cookies I brought and prepared two more mugs to fill with hot choco. I stood up immediately to help her.

"Oh, I'll help you with that," Aunt Manna smiled at me and patted my shoulder. She gave me the container and I started filling up the 2 empty mugs. I was looking down at the mugs, but then I saw Jeff and Marion walking towards us at my side view.

"Hey honey! How was it?" Aunt Manna asked Marion.

"Great mommy! We played lots and lots and lots and lots of video games!" Marion said, jumping up and down on the kitchen floor. Then, he finally saw me and ran towards me.

"Hello Leena!" he said giving me his biggest smile and immediately hugged me tight. I bent down a little and hugged him back, then continued to fill up their mugs. And yes, I was SLOWLY filling them up.

I can already feel that Jeff and Marion was starting to sit down near the small kitchen island. I gave them each of their mugs.

"Here you go," I said, sliding the mugs, I looked up for a second and smiled at both of them, then I turned around immediately and walked towards my chair.

"Thank you," Jeff said softly.

"Leena brought over some freshly-baked cookies that your Aunt Catherine made," Aunt Manna said proudly. I just smiled. The same with Jeff.

"I LOVE COOKIES!" Marion shouted and we all laughed. He was stuffing his mouth two cookies at the same time. Maybe it was Marion and I who should hang out a lot more! Ha!

"Leena, why don't you stay a little while? The three of them are going to watch movies upstairs after," Aunt Manna said while Cris was nodding and smiling. She's a really nice girl.

"Oh.. I... I don't know. I still have to help my sisters decorate the house and all. Maybe next time, I guess?" I said apologetically. I saw Marion give me a frown and I looked at Jeff who was just looking at me with a blank expression.

"Oh, your sisters are here now? Too bad. Next time okay? Promise?" Cris replied.

"Haha, yes. Promise," I hugged her again and Aunt Manna. Then I started to say my goodbyes. "Well, I... gotta go now. Thanks for the hot chocolate Aunt Manna, it was great!" I turned around and smiled at the two boys, then Marion walked towards me and hugged my waist, since that's as high as he could reach.

"Promise you'll watch a movie with me?" he said with a cute and sad voice.

"Yes. I promise. Don't worry!" I hugged him again and waved goodbye to everyone, carefully keeping my eyes away from Jeff's.

"Say thank you to your mother for me, okay?" Aunt Manna said. I smiled and closed their front door.

PHEW. I can breathe normally now. Glad that's over with. I placed my hands inside the pockets of my coat so they'd feel some warmth, placed the hood over my head so the snow wouldn't go to my hair and walked towards our house. I was nearing to the sidewalk now, getting ready to cross the road, until I saw him walking towards me. He wasn't wearing any coat or jacket actually. Just one of his gray v-neck shirts that fitted him well.

"Hey," he said again softly while placing his hands on his jean's pockets, "I'm sorry... for, you know. Not saying anything back there."

"Oh, what? No worries, it's okay," I let out a faint laugh, "no big deal. Wait... aren't you cold? Do you want to go inside?" Great job, Leena. Speaking too fast and too much again. Smooth.

He stared and smiled at me. And every time he did that, I had goosebumps all around. "It's been a while since we talked, Leena. I don't mind the cold." He smiled again. Oh god, here he goes. Keeps smiling and smiling. "I just wanted to say that, well...  I'm sorry we haven't talked in a while."

"What do you mean? We talk every time we see each other going to school?" Yeah, that's a right Leena. Rub it in!

"Well, yeah. But that's just... you know," he said looking confused as ever, "I meant, hanging out. You know, like the good old days? Our little thing? Being weird as usual?"

I gave him a blank expression, but the stuff going on inside my head was more that just a blank. "Uhm.... are you telling me that... you miss those things?" I said with a big smile on my face just to tease him.

"Wha--- what? Well, not miss. Come on, it's not like it's been a century. It's... it's just that---," he sighed, probably taking some time to search for the right words to say, "Look, why don't we hang out this weekend?"

"Really?" I replied with a confused voice. All of a sudden he wants to hang out and spend time with me. Is he okay? Was his mind freezing from the cold now? For months, I think he kept avoiding me every time I saw him, and now this?

"Yeah, how 'bout it? Or... we could, we could call the guys too, and Thea."

"Oh. Well, okay then. John also had the same idea. He asked me when I went to their house yesterday," I said, sounding not excited, but also not too pissed about it. Just a neutral voice.

"Ohhhh, great! Okay, I'll jussst... text you?" Jeff was already stuttering. He looked really pale now since it was really cold and he's just wearing a shirt.

"Sure," I replied while watching my visible breath fly into the open air. We can see smoke coming from our mouths every time we spoke, it was really cold now. "Okay, you better go inside now, you're freezing," I said to him while now looking at straight to his eyes. Then immediately, I turned around, said 'goodbye', looked right and left before attempting to cross the road, since there were already a lot of cars passing through it.

"Wait! Do you want me to walk you home?" I was still looking right and left on the road, and I didn't look back at him while saying: "No, no. I'm good. Just go back inside, you're shivering already." Then finally, I crossed the road. I ran up the stairs towards our patio and turned the front door's doorknob. But before I went inside, I couldn't help but to turn back around, and there he was about to enter into the apartment, but then just like me, he turned around. We caught each other's eyes and we immediately gave a friendly smile, just like what we've been doing for the past few months now. Just like that.

The End

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