Merry Christmas everyone!!! My gift to you is this short story. Although, seeing as how it’s an eleven page document, it’s not exceptionally short. I wrote this last year around Christmas time, at the request of a friend. I hope you like it 🙂
Andy stepped out of the car into the freezing cold air of the tree lot. He wished to close the automobile door as quickly as possible so he could return his hands to the warm security of his coat pockets, but a shout from Georgiana on the other side of the car reminded him that he had left the keys in the ignition. He reached back in, yanked them out and shut the car door harder than he had intended. Aiden stepped out from the back seat and closed the door with the side of his body, keeping his hands inside of his pockets the whole time.
“In the bleak midwinter…” Aiden hummed, absently looking around at the fir trees planted in even rows across the snowy landscape with a broad grin on his face and his cheeks aglow due to the frigid air.
“Could we have come on a warmer day?” Ryan asked, stepping out of his own car that was parked next to Andy’s, his voice muffled by the scarf he wore tightly bound around his neck and chin. Despite this added warmth, his voice misted thickly before his face; the sight of which caused him to burrow further in his fluffy scarf.
Ryce, her scarf draped loosely and fashionably around her neck, stepped out of Ryan’s car on the other side. “It’s beautiful out!” She pronounced loudly with her face to the grey sky. “Let’s go pick a tree!”
Georgiana took the keys from Andy and locked the doors since he hadn’t done it yet. She flashed a smile his way as she followed Ryce and Aiden to the top of the hill. Andy ran and caught up to her, sliding his gloved hand into hers. He felt her tense from surprise, and then relax as she realized it was he. She smiled up at him while gripping his hand tightly. Ryan followed behind. He was not an extremely active person, so he was taking his good old time making it up to the tree line.
Clusters of people, couples and families, were weaving their ways through the trees. Several stumps showed from where trees had previously been chosen. Indeed, they were rather late getting a tree, for it was only a week and a half until Christmas.
“Thanks for helping me,” Georgiana said softly, gazing lovingly up into Andy’s eyes.
Andy smiled down at her. “Any time,” he assured her. She rested her head momentarily on his shoulder, but as they reached the top of the hill, she let go of his hand and walked over to where Aiden was beginning to inspect the nearest tree. “Do you know what to look for in a tree?” Georgiana asked, coming up beside him.
“Nope!” Aiden admitted. “All I’ve ever really had experience with is our fake tree.”
“Fake trees stink,” Ryce proclaimed, wrinkling her nose as if they actually emitted a stench. “And so does this one.” She hit a branch, knocking a dusting of snow off of it in the process.
Andy turned his attention from their conversation to his brother who was finally cresting the top of the hill. “You alright?” He asked out of concern.
“Yup. Quite fine.” He flashed a cheerful smile despite the cold. Ryan was always the optimist and managed to remain cheerful most of the time for the sake of his companions and himself.
“Lets search this area,” Ryce offered, more as a command than as a suggestion. She led them off through the trees on the right side of the lot. Georgiana took Andy’s hand as they walked further into the evergreen forest. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She asked.
“Breathtaking,” Andy replied, casting his eyes upon her. He wondered if she would catch his subtlety. She did, for he felt her squeeze his hand as both a thank you and a reprimand.
As soon as Ryce called Georgiana over to look at a certain tree, Andy left Georgiana’s side, and moved over to where Ryan was standing, absently fingering a branch of the tree before him. Ryce was using him as a bookmark in case if they wanted to come back and look at that tree again. Andy hoped Georgiana didn’t think he was shunning her as he went to talk to Ryan.
“Morning,” Ryan greeted as if they had only just met for the first time that day.
“Morning. Ryce putting you to good use?” Andy asked as a conversation starter.
Andy nodded and said, “I have a question to ask you.”
“Shoot,” Ryan goaded while slipping his glove off of his left hand and hanging it on the tree so he wouldn’t lose the location as he diverted his attention to Andy.
Andy shifted weight onto his left foot and spoke in a soft voice. “I wanted to ask you if you think Georgiana would be ready…you know…” He stumbled over his words. “If she would be ready for me to propose to her.”
Ryan broke out in a huge grin. “No way! You can’t really–”
Andy shuffled his feet around in the snow. “Well–I mean–”
Ryan’s smile disappeared and he quickly attempted to save himself. “No. Sorry. I was just shocked by your question.” He reached his hand up and pushed his hat out of his face. “The question is, are you ready?”
Andy shuffled his feet some more, keeping his eyes downcast at the muddied snow beneath him. If he was this nervous asking his friend for advice, how nervous would he be when he made the actual proposal? “I could never love anyone else,” Andy offered, wondering if that was an explanation or an excuse. “I feel ready, but I don’t know if she would be.”
“You could ask her,” Ryan pointed out, shrugging, not wanting to give a decisive answer.
Andy smiled. “Like I would actually do that…”
“Well you’ll have to when you make the proposal,” Ryan chuckled.
Andy rolled his eyes, but then laughed along with his friend, thankful for his cheerful way of turning things around. “Do you think Christmas day would be a good time?”
Georgiana gently fingered a bough arrayed with soft thick needles. “I don’t know,” she said, her face twisted in indecision.
“What do you want in a tree?” Ryce asked, more than slightly frustrated at her friend’s inability to choose.
“It can’t be too tall because of ceiling height, and it ought to be full.”
“This one qualifies,” Ryce pointed out, shaking snow off of a higher branch.
“It needs to be perfect,” Georgiana whispered. Everything had to be perfect, she had decided. Many Christmases had passed without much excitement in her solitary life, but now that Andy was in it, she felt like she had to do everything in her power to make it as wonderful as possible. The snow was already here, which was a wonderful addition. Besides, what was Christmas without snow?
“I’ll get a second opinion,” Ryce declared. She walked over a row of trees, and Georgiana heard her shout, “Andy! Get over here!”
A few moments later Andy appeared from around the tree. He smiled when he saw Georgiana. Ryce began pointing out the tree and saying how Georgiana couldn’t decide.
Andy rubbed his gloved hands together absently. “Well, I think Georgiana is right. Lets keep looking.”
Ryce grimaced, but in the spirit of the season, kept on going. She had already decided which tree she was getting, and had left Aiden as a marker. Deciding that the tree that Ryan was standing by was now of no use, she called Ryan over to join their group. “I hope you don’t want me to find that tree again,” he mentioned, smiling despite the cold.
“Oh, yeah,” Ryce said sarcastically, “would you mind going to find it again?”
Ryan smiled and kissed her on the forehead. “Thanks,” he said.
She punched his shoulder, not being a person given to outward displays of affection.
Andy slid his hand into Georgiana’s. “Come on. We’d better get moving if we want to find the perfect tree.” Georgiana shivered delightfully at his mention of the word ‘perfect’.
They walked all over the tree lot, Ryce every so often shouting that she found a suitable tree, but only to have it turned down by Georgiana. Finally, Andy branched off on his own to search for a tree that would meet his girlfriend’s expectations. He wasn’t certain he would find anything but he eventually found a tree that caught his fancy, and hopefully Georgiana’s. It was not too tall, and it was full, matching her requirements.
He called her over. She inspected the tree, and finally looked at him, not yet having said anything. “Is it perfect?” he asked.
Georgiana nodded, again shivering at that word. “If you say so.”
“Come on, really?” Andy asked.
“Yes,” she answered definitively, hugging him all of a sudden. Andy was pleasantly surprised, but Georgiana finally pulled away, her cheeks flushed red whether from the cold or from embarrassment, Andy could not tell. Ryce brought out the saws, and they proceeded to cut down the perfect tree. They left not long after with the tree strapped to the top of the car.
That afternoon found them all in Georgiana’s living room. Andy grunted as he let another big box drop down onto the living room floor, nearly squishing his toes. “How many Christmas decorations do you have?” He asked Georgiana, who was unpacking the first box he had brought down.
“Enough to deck the halls and then some,” Ryce replied for her friend as she spread out a garland across the mantle. She and Ryan had stopped by her condo to drop off her tree, then returned to aid Georgiana in decorating.
“That’s for sure,” Ryan replied, toting another box down the steps.
Ryce walked over to the box next to the one that Georgiana was unpacking and began to rummage through it.
“Well, lookey here!” she exclaimed, leaning down and pulling a sprig of mistletoe out of the beat-up cardboard box. “Where should I put this?” She asked the mistress of the house.
“Um…you sure its necessary?” Georgiana asked, her box-sifting stopping as she looked up at her friend.
“Definitely!” Ryce pushed. “What? Are you afraid of getting caught?” She walked to the doorway to the kitchen, traversing the living room. She grabbed a chair and removed the “faith, hope, and love” picture from above, and replaced it with the mistletoe. “Be careful where you walk now,” Ryce said to her friend. “Andy’s going to be watching your every move.” She smiled fiendishly and looked Andy’s way to make sure he had heard that.
“Am I that predictable?” Andy questioned, intending it to sound as a joke. He wasn’t sure if Georgiana took it seriously or not.
Ryan laughed. Georgiana just smiled at Andy, meeting his gaze from across the room. He didn’t know if that was consent, or merely an attempt at disguising deeper feelings.
After the moment of slight awkwardness passed, Aiden came in from the garage. “I found the lights!!” He proclaimed exuberantly. “Even a few light up reindeer.”
“Didn’t know you had those,” Ryce said as she looked at the boy over her shoulder. She was once again at the mantle placing placards of Christmas words upon it, replacing the usual picture frames.
The house transformed completely with the many helpers in just one afternoon. The result was spectacular. Aiden even put up the reindeer in the front yard while Andy fiddled with extension cords and Ryan wrapped light strands around the front bushes.
Inside was completed as well by the time dark came. The Christmas tree was lit and decorated, perfect indeed. The wreaths were hung on the doors, the garlands were woven into the railing, and the candles were placed in the windows. Even the mistletoe hung above the doorway as a symbol of Christmas tradition.
Georgiana handed out Christmas cookies to her friends who had willingly come over to help despite their own busy holiday season, especially Andy and Aiden, who would be spending this year without their mother. She gave Aiden a hug along with his cookie. “You’re awesome,” she reassured him.
“Thanks” Aiden responded, wondering where the sudden display of affection came from, but not minding it in the least. Georgiana’s attention was grabbed as Andy snagged another Christmas cookie off the plate. “Hey!” She scolded before realizing whom the culprit was.
“Don’t I get a hug?” Andy asked, placing the cookie back on the plate. He had just wanted to get her attention after all. Happy to do so, but appearing to be annoyed, she gave him a warm hug.
Andy returned the embrace with no intention of letting go.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” Georgiana asked as a conversation starter, feeling like she needed to hear conversation at the current moment.
“I have nothing planned. But we still have a good week and a half to figure it out. You?”
Georgiana paused before she offered her invitation. She made sure that she wanted to do this. After all, it would make it a perfect Christmas.
“Would you like to come over for Christmas?” She inquired, loosening her grip and looking up, causing him to let go and look down.
Andy couldn’t describe how excited he felt with just those few simple words. “I would love to!” He replied. “Aiden is included in that invitation, right?” He asked out of sudden concern for his brother.
“Of course!” Georgiana replied, a laugh and a smile on her lips. She fully detached herself and stood by the piano, adjusting a wise man that had turned completely around in the nativity set on the instrument.
“See you later,” Ryce said, as she picked up her purse off of the recliner. She pulled Ryan with her to the doorway to the kitchen and gave him a quick peck underneath the mistletoe. Then she shot a look at Georgiana, daring her to try it. “Goodbye!” She said in final greeting as she walked out the door.
Five days later found Andy driving Georgiana to the mall. She hated to drive, so she left that job to Andy as she went to do her last minute Christmas shopping. Aiden was in school, so she planned on buying his Christmas present, and was planning on buying Andy’s when he wasn’t looking.
“Do you have any Christmas traditions?” She asked Andy.
Andy shrugged while keeping his control over the car. “We have a fake tree since our apartment is so small, so we put that up every year. Then we always wake up at five in the morning and open presents. What do you do?”
It was Georgiana’s turn to shrug. “I do something different every year, although I always get a real tree. That tradition is down and never changing.”
“I do like your real tree,” Andy interjected, as if his mention of a fake tree made Georgiana angry. He knew it hadn’t, but needed to say it just the same.
“Yeah,” Georgiana agreed, more out of a lack of what to say than an agreement. Andy parked the car expertly as they reached the mall.
“What do you want for Christmas?” Andy inquired as they entered the doors of one of the major department stores.
“You don’t have to get me anything!” Georgiana exclaimed, being polite, as usual.
“Of course I do,” Andy interjected, reaching out and touching her shoulder gently.
“Gosh. I don’t know how to answer that question,” Georgiana replied, pressing closer to him.
“Just tell me what you like. Um…flowers…a jacket…” He ran his right hand along the back of his neck while he looked around for inspiration and saw the glass box where all the rings and gems were stored. “Jewelry? White gold or yellow?” He decided to put in the question. He would want to get an engagement ring that she would like.
Georgiana looked up at him curiously, noticing his question and reading something behind it. Her heart leapt and she found her mouth dry as she tried to respond.
He began to wonder if it hadn’t been all that subtle.
Georgiana, trying to mask her suspicions, cast her gaze elsewhere as she replied. “I do prefer white.” She looked back at Andy who was feigning interest in other things as well. A multitude of questions flooded her brain. Was Andy serious? Was he already thinking of engagement? Were they ready for that kind of step? She struggled to keep her fluttering heart contained, and marched further into the department store, determined to find the right presents for her two best friends and her boyfriend. “What do you want for Christmas?” She asked Andy as he walked by her side.
Andy had not been expecting for his question to be turned back on him. “I have no idea.” He replied honestly.
“I guess I’ll have to think of something or ask Aiden.”
“Go ahead,” Andy replied. He did not like to be interrogated.
Together they picked out Aiden’s Christmas present. Georgiana was glad for Andy’s input. Who would have known that his little brother would prefer a fleece blanket with Winnie the Pooh instead of Star Wars? For Ryce, Andy was unable to be of use. He was on friendly terms with her, and according to Georgiana, Ryce considered Andy her friend, but they certainly didn’t know too much about each other.
Three hours later, they retuned to the car with arms full of bags and boxes. Andy had even picked up some presents for all of his half-siblings, and some for Aiden.
Andy dropped Georgiana off at her house, and then made his way back to his house where Aiden was. His little brother had gone over to a friend’s house for a Christmas party since Christmas break had just started, and hopefully was back home by now.
“What did you get for me?” Aiden asked as Andy entered the front door, coming from the kitchen and turning off the TV on the way over.
“I’m not telling!” Andy replied, holding his packages close, glad he had them all contained in paper shopping bags.
“I was kidding, of course,” Aiden replied, turning around, giving Andy a moment to go and hide the presents. Andy took the opportunity to duck into the master bedroom. For a kid, Aiden had very good self control. After stowing the presents in the closet, he returned to the main room. The Christmas tree stood in the one corner, mostly decked out with gingerbread men, glass balls, and beaded ornaments. Aiden had made the gingerbread men with Georgiana as a fun after-school project. He had even strung some popcorn on the tree. “What are you watching?” Andy asked, looking at the television, which Aiden had just turned on.
“Christmas movies.” Aiden replied, sitting back down on the couch and grabbing a bowl of popcorn from the end table. Andy sat down next to him on the dark blue couch and stole a handful of popcorn. He looked at the TV. Commercials plagued the screen advertising everything under the sun with Christmas jingles. “What’s playing?” he asked inquisitively, stuffing half his handful into his mouth afterwards.
“Just finished watching Frosty the Snowman. Now they’re playing Charlie Brown.”
“Guess I came just in time. I love that one.” Andy took another handful of popcorn.
“I’ll go make some more popcorn,” Aiden said, looking at the sinking level in his bowl.
“I’ll do it,” Andy offered.
“Nope. These commercials just started. I’ll have plenty of time before it begins.”
As soon as Aiden left, Andy sent up a silent thankful prayer for the two people who made his life a better place, Aiden and Georgiana.
When Aiden returned, Andy kept his consumption of popcorn to a minimum as they watched the Christmas movies that had been a part of their childhood.
The few remaining days went by quickly for some and slowly for others. For Georgiana, the days went by in a hurry. There were so many things to do and so little time to do them. For Aiden, time went by in an agonizing crawl. Andy was caught in the between, being anxious for Christmas to come, but still feeling that he didn’t have enough time to get everything ready. On Sunday, two days before Christmas Day, he went out to buy his present for Georgiana, after a great amount of thought and consideration, and several phone calls with Ryan (who proved to be a valuable person to have on hand when contemplating engagement rings). Ryan had even given a few pointers on how to make the proposal. Despite the fact that Ryan had never proposed to anybody, he was able to determine what would happen in a certain situation because he was a writer. Andy on the other hand was just a songwriter. He would do his writing after all was said and done.
Andy found himself ready for Christmas at about eight o’clock in the evening on Christmas Eve. The wrapping was all that was left in his preparations. He completed that chore in the master bedroom, which was used for storage purposes now, while Aiden did his wrapping out in the living room. As Andy reached for a new roll of tape, his cell phone rang. Without a thought as to who it was, he answered it robotically. “Hello? This is Andy Fox.”
“Hey, Andy. This is Georgiana.”
“Oh, hi Georgie. What do you want?”
“When are you planning on coming over tomorrow?”
“When may we?” Andy asked back, not wanting to have to decide on his own when to come over, since it was Georgiana’s house.
“You said you usually wake up early on Christmas morning?” She questioned, making sure her information was right.
“Yeah…” Andy confirmed, but at the same time wondering where this conversation could possibly be going.
“How about you and Aiden come over then. As soon as you wake up.”
“Gosh,” Andy replied. “I don’t know. We wake up rather early.”
“I bet I’ll be up before you,” she reckoned with a tease in her voice.
“Okay. You’re on,” Andy replied. “Love you. Have a merry Christmas.”
“I will,” She answered sweetly. “Love you too.” Then the phone call ended.
“Aiden, do you have more tape?” Andy called out to the living room.
“Yup. You need it?”
“Why do you think I asked?”
“Can I come in?” Aiden asked. Andy could tell he had moved so he was right in front of the door.
Andy did a quick check to make sure all of Aiden’s presents were wrapped then said, “alright.”
Aiden deposited the tape dispenser on the bed and Andy gratefully took a piece of tape and smoothly placed it on the paper, securing the present inside. This was the most important present of all. It was small, but size didn’t matter. He hoped and prayed that Georgiana would like it.
Aiden made sure to assure him that she would.
In anticipation for the early morning, Andy and Aiden made sure to go to bed as soon as their wrapping was done. They placed their presents for each other under the tree, but the ones for Georgiana were placed in a large cardboard box, which their microwave had come in, by the front door. They wouldn’t be able to miss it on their way out the next morning.
Andy was awakened by the excited bouncing of his younger brother and his fervent pleas to get up. Andy opened his eyes and groaned. He sat up and saw through the open bedroom door the living room window. The world was still dark outside.
“Aiden!! Five more minutes! Or hours,” he groaned. Sleepily, he began to turn over again, but Aiden stopped him, his face aglow with the joy of Christmas. That was when Andy realized what the day was.
He quickly pushed aside the covers and changed into presentable clothing. Then he stumbled to the bathroom, for he still was not fully awake. He looked at the glowing red numbers of the digital clock display. It was four fourty-five. Andy woke up immediately once seeing that. They had to beat Georgiana. While Aiden went outside to start the car, Andy finished getting ready, then walked out the door with the box full of presents in his arms and somehow managed to lock the door behind him.
The backseat held the box, but before Andy shut the door, he took the small package off the top of the pile and placed it in a pocket on the inside of his coat. He didn’t want to misplace it anywhere. Aiden claimed shotgun since he was not old enough to drive yet. It was dark and no one was out on the streets at such an unholy hour of the morning. If anyone was up at this time of day, they would be at home celebrating.
Needless to say, they managed to get to Georgiana’s house without any impeding traffic.
They entered through the mudroom door like they usually did. It had been locked, but Andy had a key for in the case of emergencies. “You think she’s still sleeping?” Aiden asked.
“There only one way to find out,” Andy replied. He took a hold on the knob of the kitchen door and pushed it open. Andy was glad to see Georgiana up and about, arranging Christmas cookies onto a plate.
She had heard the door opening, and now looked towards the brothers. “I win,” she stated. Then she smiled and Aiden entered first, bringing with him the box of gifts. “Merry Christmas,” he greeted.
“Merry Christmas,” Georgiana returned.
Andy entered. His heart leapt as he beheld her. “Merry Christmas,” he greeted. He hugged her and placed a kiss on her head for that was all he could reach without bending down.
Before he could steal one, Georgiana handed him a cookie. Andy smiled and accepted it. He hesitated to eat it, but as Georgiana walked out to the living room, he popped it into his mouth and followed her.
Aiden had arranged the gifts around the tree. Well, all the gifts except for one. Andy had transferred it to his jeans pocket since he couldn’t wear his coat inside. He hoped Georgiana didn’t see it and get suspicious.
“When do we start?” Aiden asked; his unusual maturity set aside for the boyish nature that rarely was revealed.
“Not yet,” Georgiana replied, in a way that didn’t seem condescending. “Shall we sing some Christmas songs and read the Christmas story?”
“I’m game,” Andy replied. After all, singing was one of the things that he did the best. The other things would include his musical talent and his ability to mismatch car parts. He inwardly sighed. He needed to get a new job.
They moved over to the piano and Andy began to play familiar Christmas tunes. He led them through the stanzas of ‘away in the manger’ and ‘o come all ye faithful’. Then Georgiana found her Bible in her room and read through the Christmas story. Of all the traditions that had come together that day, the reading of the Christmas story was the one that they had in common.
Once that was finished and they had prayed for God’s blessing on the day, Georgiana gave Aiden permission to hand out and open presents.
Paper was torn away and presents were revealed. ‘Thank you’ was said many times and hugs were delivered all around. Aiden gave Georgiana a nice new cupcake tin since her old one had been dented and used longer than it should have. Aiden was given the Winnie the Pooh fleece, that Andy had helped pick out. Georgiana was glad for Andy’s input. She had no idea Aiden could be that happy over what she always considered a children’s theme. Georgiana had gone all out with giving Andy and Aiden presents, which for a moment made Andy feel that his purchase for her was insignificant. Finally Aiden went to the kitchen to grab a trash bag and the paper was all cleared away.
Georgiana looked at andy for a moment, having noticed that he had not given her a present. She sighed, and shrugged to herself. Maybe he had forgotten. “Alright,” Georgiana offered cheerfully, determined to overlook the fact. “Who wants Christmas cookies?”
“I do!” Aiden spoke up.
“I’ll go get them,” Andy volunteered.
“No, I can go,” Georgiana contradicted. She stood up and walked halfway across the room. She didn’t want him to follow her for she felt her disappointment at not receiving a present warm its way up her chest and threatening tears in her eyes.
“Georgie! I insist!” Andy caught up with her and playfully grabbed her hand.
She laughed half-heartedly and took a few more steps. “I don’t see why you have to–”
Andy stepped closer. Georgiana suddenly realized what he was doing as he leaned down. She opened her mouth to protest, but then closed it and shut her eyes. Warmth flooded her body as their lips met. Andy’s arms slid around her waist, drawing her closer into a passionate kiss. A few moments later, Andy pulled away, in need of air. Georgiana watched in wonder as he stood there with a foot of distance between them on the threshold of the kitchen, a sprig of mistletoe suspended above them.
Andy fumbled with the package in his pocket. He hadn’t expected himself to be so nervous. Finally, his trembling fingers pulled it free, and he handed it to Georgiana. “This is my present to you. Merry Christmas.”
Georgina accepted it gratefully; now feeling stupid for having felt disappointed, and curiously unwrapped the green ribbon, then tearing away the wrapping paper. She gasped when she saw the small square box she had just unwrapped. She had not been expecting this!
Andy took the box back gently and knelt, opening the lid to reveal the ring inside. “Georgiana, will you marry me?” He asked.
Georgiana’s heart beat rapidly with excitement and joy. She knew what her answer would be. “Yes,” she whispered. “Yes,” she repeated, louder.
Andy stood up and removed the ring from the box. Georgiana saw it better as Andy took her left hand and slid it onto her finger. It was white gold, with a single, perfectly cut diamond in the shape of a heart. Andy squeezed her hand tightly, and she looked up at him. She saw him lean down, and she was prepared this time. Together they exchanged another kiss beneath the mistletoe.
Aiden interrupted the romantic moment by asking, “So…who exactly is getting the cookies?”
Andy and Georgiana smiled simultaneously. “I will,” Andy offered.
“No, I can do it,” Georgiana assure him.
Andy kissed her once more. “Let’s not start that again.” He ducked into the kitchen and returned with the cookie platter. They all sat down together on the couch, their Christmas perfect because they were with each other.