"Good morning Mrs. C!", John greeted loudly as he saw my mom inside the kitchen baking some pie. Aries and Zander followed his lead and greeted mom too, they were a little shy since it was their first time to meet mom.
"Good morning Leena's group of boy friends," Mom said as if she just made a joke. Not funny mom, sorry. But the guys just laughed politely, "Great you guys could spend time together before Christmas, huh?"
"Yes, ma'am. And thanks again for allowing us! Usually families are kinda busy during Christmas Eve," Aries said sounding so polite and nice.
"Oh! No worries, all I have to do is cook, that's all. You guys are staying until the afternoon, right?", Mom asked as she was preparing all of the different ingredients she needed on the counter top.
"Oh, if that's okay with you ma'am?" Zander said. Aww, look at him so polite too! Such a total turn on when the guys are so nice.
"Of course! I'll be cooking my best meals! Because tonight, Leena, we'll be inviting you're Uncle Joe and the whole family!" Mom looked so excited.
"Oh, that's great! Uhm, actually, Jeff's coming over in a minute."
"Oh? OH! That's great! All bonding time for all of you, huh? And how 'bout Thea?"
Thea came running towards the kitchen, she was using our bathroom a while ago. "Preseeeeeent! I'm here!"
"She's here too," I said with my sarcastic bored and disappointed voice. Thea hugged me tightly.
"All right! You guys are complete! So, what are you guys going to do today?"
"Oh, you know Mrs. C., hang out, catch up, watch movies. Typical."
"Oh, okay. Sounds cozy," mom prepared hot chocolate mugs on a tray and gave it to John, "Well, here you go, drink up!"
"YUMMM! Thanks Mrs. C!" John said happily and took the big mug. Typical. We went outside at the patio so we could hang out there while drinking our warm and frothy cups of melted dark chocolate with a mountain of marshmallows. Even though we decided to do this instead of hanging out in the mall, going on a road trip or other wild adventures, it was kind of relaxing doing this, and I think every one was enjoying this time of relaxing. We kept talking about our lives, not the deep and dramatic parts of it, but the funny and down-to-earth experiences we've had during those times we didn't get to see each other. John talked about how their coach got pissed at him every time he arrived late and made him do an additional one hundred push ups. But then boasted that his muscles got bigger... now I don't feel sorry for him. Aries told us he got in to the State University too, but without scholarship. But the most surprising was how Zander told me about his and Thea's 'little adventure' at the community zoo, which I knew nothing about.
"Our stupid science teacher wanted us to interview workers at the zoo and experience taking care of the animals for a day. I chose Thea to be my partner. And when we got home, boy, I just wanted to live in our bath tub. We smelled like poo and different kinds of animal stench. Bleh!" We all laughed, loudly, after Zander made his 'disgusted' face. But then immediately, I punched Thea on her arm.
"OWW! What was that for?!" Thea shouted.
"FOR NOT TELLING ME!"
She didn't look angry anymore, now, she looked like she was about to kneel in front of me. "I'm so so so sorryyyy! Hey, 'Tis the season to forgive, right?" She gave me a huge smile.
"You're lucky." I gave her my angry face, but at the same time I was happy for her. Really happy. I liked Zander too before, but now this was going on, he's all her's.
"Hey Leena," Aries said, "Where the hell is Jeff? He lives like 10 feet away from you. Don't tell me he's caught in traffic!"
"He's," John answered back even though Aries asked me, "he's not home. I think... he went somewhere. But he's coming now." John said while fiddling with his phone.
"Where is he?" I asked.
John answered back, but was struggling with his words, "I... I dunno. He just said he's gonna do some errands." As John finished talking, both Aries and Zander looked at him, like they were communicating about something only by using their eyes. Thea and I noticed.
We spent the whole time in the patio talking and catching up with each other. Now it really felt like Christmas already. Great friends, great times. An hour has passed when we finally saw his SUV pulling up in their driveway. He locked his car and walked straight towards us.
"Heeeeey man!" The boys greeted him, but I noticed that John whispered something to him. He replied, whispering to him too.
"Yo, sorry I'm late," he greeted them back. Next, he saw Thea and greeted her. Lastly, he greeted me, "Leena, hey."
"Hi," I said. Short and concise. Everyone got silent for a minute, but then Aries broke the silence, as usual, being the clown of the group.
"I'm just going inside. Is Aunt Catherine home?" Jeff asked me shyly.
"Yeah, she's in the kitchen." He went inside, while I quickly took a sip of my hot choco.
"Woah, there's something you're not telling us," Thea said while looking straight into my eyes.
"Yeah, there is," Zander said while squinting his eyes, giving me a suspicious look, "what happened?". Now, everyone was looking at me.
"What do you mean?! Why are you guys looking at me like I ignored him?!"
They just stared at me. Which I hated, it makes me feel so guilty.
"We just haven't talked in a while, okay!" I said while whispering, careful enough so that Jeff wouldn't hear, "Yeah, we live like 10 feet away, but all we did was you know, say "Hi!", or wave, every time we saw each other going to school. Sometimes, I even think he's avoiding my gaze. Understand now?!"
Everyone was still quiet, but they didn't stop looking at me.
"Really?" John asked while looking really confused. Minutes later Jeff came out holding his own cup of hot chocolate that mom gave him. He sat beside John, who was sitting on the opposite direction from where I was sitting. We all went back to normal, hiding all of our confused and suspicious faces. We were back to normal, laughing our ass of from all the funny stories at school that each one had to share. It was great, really! It's amazing how you guys just started hanging out during the summer, and after about 6 months, you guys feel like you've known each other forever. I'm so thankful I found friends like them.
My amazing friends started to leave at about 6 pm, since it was already Christmas Eve, I didn't want to miss spending it with each of their families. I hugged all of them, especially Thea, so tight that she really couldn't breathe, then I said goodbye. I didn't hug Jeff though, since we both knew we would be seeing each other again in a short while.
I quickly went to my room after they all left, so that I could get ready and dress up. Mom bought me this simple and elegant dress that I would wear tonight. My sisters are also here after they went to their friends' house a while ago. I wore my dress, which had about 3/4 sleeves, it had prints of mistletoe all around it and it came with a ribbon to be tied on my waist. When I went downstairs everyone was already there. My sisters, mom and dad, Uncle Joe, Aunt Manna, and their 3 children. Cris saw me first, and she hugged me so tight.
"Merry Christmas!" I greeted everyone. Marion hugged me too, and so did Aunt Manna and Uncle Joe.
As we sat down to eat dinner, Cris asked me if I could sit beside her. Of course I couldn't say No, so I did. My sister, Maryh, sat beside Jeff. Unfortunately, we were facing each other. Through out the whole dinner, dad and Uncle Joe just talked about their experiences, good and bad, while talking to the people they met. It turns out, Uncle Joe made a good connection with one government official he and my dad met at one conference. My dad said that he thinks he's the solid one, like, he's really gonna help him.
After dinner, all of just hung out inside the family room, watching the news or other Christmas specials. Our parents talked and talked about things that I didn't listen to anymore. My sisters were now talking to Cris, so I was the one in charge of the TV remote. Jeff was playing with Marion, so here I go again, sitting alone in family gatherings. I was like this when we had gatherings with my father's side. My dad had a huge family! He has 12 siblings, all of them married, and everyone had children. Whenever we were all together, I was just at the background, reading a book or listening to music. I was that type of girl. But only when it comes to these kind of people. On my mother's side we were all close with each other.
After so many times of changing channels, Jeff sat down beside me. I didn't expect it at all. I faced him and smiled.
"Hey," he said softly, "So... how are you?"
Okay, 100% awkward right now. "I'm good. You?"
"I'm sorry, okay?"
I was stunned, I just looked straight on the TV screen. I didn't say anything.
"I know I've been avoiding you before, and that---,"
"Jeff, I know. It's awkward sometimes, I feel it too. You don't have to be sorry about anything. It's not your fault," I said, whispering so no one would hear.
"No, it is my fault. I'm just occupied and going through some things, that's why I've been avoiding you." He was facing me right now, even though I was still facing the TV. Truth is, I hated talking about these kinds of things. I hate drama. So even though I felt bad because he kept avoiding me, I just try really hard to keep it to myself.
"Like what? School stuff?" I asked. What was his problem that made him to avoid talking to me?
"Not really. It's... just... uhm," Jeff struggled as he explained things.
"Oh, okay. Nevermind. I should've not asked. It's okay if it's serious stuff," I said while giving off a little smile.
He smiled back. Then, suddenly he took something out of his pocket. Something wrapped in brown paper, then he gave it to me. "Here."
I took the small box from him and looked at it for a moment. I literally didn't know what to say. I was speechless and surprised. I never thought that he would a give me a present for Christmas, and I felt guilty because I had nothing to give him. But most of all, I was so surprised that he even gave me one. He didn't have to, really. Even John, Aries and Zander didn't give me anything, and I understood, they're boys. Ha-ha. "It's my Christmas gift for you!" He said looking happy and excited as ever.
"Wow," I kept looking at the box, then I faced him, "But... you really didn't have to! I mean.... I didn't get you anything! I'm so sorry! I feel so guilty!" I looked around and saw that everyone was still talking with one another, which was good. No one noticed us.
"Hahaha! What? No, consider it as a Christmas gift/Thank you gift/Sorry gift. Please, just keep it. I even asked Cris to help me. Open it," he said excitedly. He looked so charming now. But I still felt guilty.
"Okay...," I started unwrapping the gift, "but again, you don't have to say sorry, it's okay."
"Just open it," he ordered me, which made me really laugh.
I unwrapped the brown box which was tied with a Christmas ribbon. As I was doing so, I was so nervous. I somehow just wished it was just chocolate or gift certificate so I wouldn't feel super guilty. If it was something fancy, I'd feel... I'd feel...UGH. I don't know what I'd feel!
I opened the box's lid, and I figured that the universe was against me again. I saw a shiny, dark, and silver bracelet resting inside it. HOLY CRAP. Thanks a lot universe! It was simple, just a round silver ring and there was this small charm at the bottom that I couldn't quite see. I was just looking at it, too stunned to move any of my fingers. Then i realized that he was just staring at me, also not moving.
"Well... do you like it?" He asked nervously.
"Are you kidding?! I love it! But... you really didn't have to get me something expensive as this, it's too much," I said sounding polite. My heart was pounding right now.
"No, it's okay! Even Cris said so, I asked her for help you know."
I took the bracelet out of the box and took a good look at it. It was beautiful. Honestly, it was my first time to receive something amazing like this from a boy. I mean, the last time John gave me something for my birthday, it was a huge bar of chocolate with a complimentary insult about my weight. My mind was going crazy! What does this mean?! You don't just give someone a thank you gift like this.
"Here, let me help you," he said and took the bracelet from me, "Oh, and I have an explanation for this."
"Oh, wow! Let's hear it then," I said as he took my arm and locked the bracelet, which fit perfectly by the way. Amaziiiiiing.
"Okay. Remember the time when we were asking questions when we were out together?" I nodded, even though there were so many times when we did that, "then I asked you to choose between an expensive jewelry of some sort or a trip to Disneyland?"
"Yeaaah, and I chose Disneyland."
"YES. That's it. Well," he breathed deeply then continued, "clearly, I couldn't afford that now, and even if I did, our parents would find it really weird. So I... compromised." He was still holding my arm, which made me feel a little uncomfortable. Heck, I liked it.Then suddenly, he twisted my arm so that my palm was facing upward, and that's when I saw what the charm at the bottom was. It was a black hidden mickey symbol. My chest just dropped and it gave me this heavy feeling, like having difficulty to breathe.
"Wow....," I said just to say something and not makes things so awkward. I looked at him and he was just smiling non-stop. Which made me blush like a big red ripe tomato.
"Oh, I don't want to take all the credit. It's kind of Cris' gift too," he said looking nervous again as he pointed at her. She waved at me and smiled as she saw the bracelet. I moved my mouth to say Thank You. "I just thought that, girls like jewelry somehow, right? Even though you chose only one, I gave you both. Bracelet, plus Disney, equals best present ever!"
"YEAH, thank you so much! I... I don't even.... ugh! I am running out of words right now!"
He laughed hard. Which made me really happy.
"Merry Christmas," he said looking straight at me, then pointed at the clock above the TV, which was now pointing at exactly midnight. Everyone stood up and shouted, greeted and hugged everybody.
After a few minutes of hugging and cheers and smiles, Uncle Joe started to say goodbye and good morning, since it really was morning now. But before they left, I luckily had the chance to thank Cris.
"Cris, Merry Christmas!", we hugged each other. "Hey, thank you so much for the gift," I raised my hand so that she could see the bracelet.
"Oh, don't mention it. But, it really isn't actually 'my gift', I just helped him pick one, he paid for it."
And again, I was speechless. "Wait, what?"
"Yeah. He was like: 'Hey Cris! You're a girl, right? Mind helping me?'. DON'T TELL HIM that I told you, okay? Well, do you like it?"
"Like it?," I said, even though my mind was still buffering on the whole idea that he was the only one that bought it, "I love it!"
"Great! Gosh, I just have awesome taste, huh?"
We both laughed and hugged each other for the last time. I hugged all of them again after my sisters said their goodbyes. I wanted to say goodbye to Jeff last.
"Hey, thanks again. Really. But I still think it's too much," I said.
"Pshh, please." He smiled.
"But really, thanks so much. I'll make it up to you... someday," I replied while laughing.
"Yeah, I'll look forward to that."
He was about to give me a hug, but then I suddenly had the guts to kiss him on the cheek. Just a quick one so no one would notice. Then, I hugged him again. I just couldn't say thank you enough.
When I stepped back he looked at me for a second, probably stunned because I did that, but then he immediately smiled and said 'Merry Christmas' again. They all went out on the yard and started walking towards their apartment while we were waving goodbye.
Then suddenly, Mary stood beside me and whispered something in my ear. "I saw that," she said, giving me one of her sweet smiles. She grabbed my hand and looked at the bracelet
After Uncle Joe and his family went inside of their apartment, we went inside. We helped mom clean up everything, then we went straight to bed. It was almost 2 am now. I changed into my pajamas and lay down in bed. I took the bracelet off. I looked at it, especially at the charm. This was just an amazing gift. It really was too much, but I loved it.
I placed it on top of my bedside table, placing it carefully between my other bracelets and necklaces that weren't as nice as this one, and went to sleep.